EVANSVILLE, Ind. – The SIUE women's basketball team falls in heartbreaking fashion 69-67 to UT Martin in the Ohio Valley Conference semifinal Friday. In the loss Lauren White became the third player to reach 1,000 career points for the SIUE women this season.
The Cougars (17-15) took their first lead of the game when Jay'Nee Alston hit a free throw to make it 7-6 at the 6:30 mark during the first quarter. Alston finished the game with a career high 17 points.
"My teammates and coaches kept hyping me up throughout the game, and I felt my confidence go up with every make I had," Alston said of her big night.
The Skyhawks (20-13) ended the first quarter on a 14-5 run to make the score 20-15 at the end of one.
In the second quarter, the Cougars outscored the Skyhawks 12-8. Nakiah Bell had five points for SIUE in the second. The Cougars cut the UT Martin lead to one by halftime, making it 28-27 at the break.
The third quarter was tight throughout, until the Skyhawks went on a 9-2 run to close out the quarter. UT Martin Freshmen Chelsea Perry had seven of her 15 total points in the third. The Skyhawks led the Cougars 52-42 heading into the final quarter.
SIUE senior Donshel Beck picked up her fourth foul of the game early in the fourth, sitting her for most of the quarter. Beck, the OVC first-team selection, finished the game with nine points in 23 minutes played.
The Cougars kept chipping away at the Skyhawks lead throughout the fourth quarter. SIUE cut the UTM lead to one after an Allie Troeckler layup at the 3:45 minute mark. Troeckler had 11 points and five rebounds on the night.
With two minutes remaining, senior White made a free throw, putting her at 1,000 career points. White finished with nine points on the night.
With :19 seconds left in the game, Troeckler hit a layup to make the score 67-64, advantage UT Martin. The Skyhawks then inbounded the ball and Nakiah Bell and Troeckler forced a jump ball with SIUE holding the possession arrow. The inbound play set up Bell perfectly in the corner for a wide open three-pointer, which she drained, tying the game up at 67 with :12 seconds left.
"Nakia did a great job," SIUE Head Coach Paula Buscher said, "They guarded our primary option and she stepped right in and didn't hesitate."
UT Martin then drove the ball up the court, Perry then drew a foul with :04 seconds remaining. She drained both free throws to seal the game.
SIUE Head Coach Buscher had high praise of her seniors this season.
"Our seniors were the heart and core of our team," Buscher said. "Donshel, Lauren and Gwen Adams all had 1,000 points for us in their careers, which is huge. Elina Berzina was a big contributor for her two seasons after transferring from Independence Community College."
"I've learned a lot from the seniors and they've helped me a lot throughout my time here at SIUE," Alston said about the senior leadership this season.
"I had a lot of fun here at SIUE," Beck added. "I met a lot of people and I love all of them. It was a fun ride this season."
"I'm so proud of this group," Coach Buscher said. "They battled all season long and I couldn't be more proud."