A Nail-biting Finish for the Ohio Valley Conference Women’s Championship

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Nothing says excitement quite like a double overtime finish to win a national title. The Ohio Valley Conference saw many teams compete throughout the tournament, but only the Austin Peay Governors would take home the trophy.  A team picked to finish ninth in the tournament according to preseason poll of coaches. 

Prior to this game, Eastern Illinois had defeated Austin Peay twice in the regular season, both of those wins coming by double digits. Austin Peay had much to prove and they sure answered the call. After leading for much of the game, the Governors found themselves holding on by a shoestring in the final seconds. Eastern fought back to force the game to overtime, but Peay was the victor after outscoring the EIU Panthers 21-17 in the finals 10 minutes. 

Ashley Herring led the Lady Govs (17-15) with 21 points while the tournament MVP, April Thomas added 13 points and eight rebounds as Austin Peay won the conference title for the first time since 2004. 

“They kept fighting, that’s what they do,” said Austin Peay coach Carrie Daniels.

The two stars did not do it by themselves, as teammate Emily Pollock scored nine of her career-high 13 points in the second overtime, sealing the victory for the Governors. 

After starting the month by losing five straight games, Austin Peay remained calm and ended the regular season with an overtime win much like the one against EIU that won them the title. The Governors proved that even during a rebuild they can still win games and more importantly, national titles. 

“Nobody thought we’d be here. We knew it was going to be hard, but we fought,” Austin Peay’s April Thomas said.

Rachel Galligan led all scorers with 24 points, shooting a remarkable 12-of-15 from the floor. She was named to the OVC All-Tournament Team for the second year in a row and officially broke the EIU single-season scoring record (with 582 points). 

“We got down to the end and the needle was on E,” said Eastern Illinois coach Brady Sallee.

Even with Galligan’s breakout game, the Governors appeared to be in control after taking a four-point lead with 1:12 left in regulation. The Lady Govs then missed four straight free throws, giving Eastern Illinois a fighting chance to get back in it.

Galligan came through with a layup with 7.2 seconds to go to tie the game at 48. 

Then things started to get interesting. 

Eastern took the lead in the first overtime, but not for long. The duo of Herring and Pollock was just too much for the Panthers. 

Herring hit a clutch pullup to get the Lady Govs within 54-52. Pollock answered by stripping EIUs’ Megan Edwards and sprinting to the other end for an easy layup.

Neither team could close out the first overtime. Pollock, however, started the second half with a layup and a 3-pointer of her own to give the Governors the lead. 

“It was just adrenaline flowing through me,” said Pollock. “I think we all thought we could do it.”

After the Panthers swept the season series from the Governors during the regular season, this game would be different. 

Austin Peay snagged three defensive rebounds from missed attempts by Eastern Illinois to close the game. The next stop for the Lady Govs, the NCAA Tournament. 

“We had confidence. We knew it was going to be hard, but we fought,” Thomas said. 





Who said free agency was boring?

WHITEWATER, Wis.– With the off-season quickly coming to an end, now is the time to put all your eggs in one basket. Which many teams, including the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears have done. Green Bay started the madness by signing Jimmy Graham and Muhammad Wilkerson, two of the top available free agents in 2018.

Many have praised Green Bay general manager Brian Gutenkunst for his efforts in signing these two stars. Graham was rated as the No.1 tight end according to ESPN’s top 100 free agent list, with Wilkerson rated as the no. 1 defensive end. Let the numbers speak for themselves. Gutenkunst did something no other GM did this off-season, sign the top player at two different positions, but he still has plenty of work to do. The Packers defense has seen better days and with big question marks in the defensive backfield. Especially now that former first round pick Damarious Randall has been traded to the Browns. Gutenkunst has to make a big move, or a few.

Green Bay had their eyes on a few defensive backs early on in free agency, but couldn’t agree on terms or simply didn’t have the cap space for a big time defender. Here is a list of free agent defensive backs still available for the Packers (or any other team) to sign.
– Rashaan Melvin- probably the hottest attraction in free agency for defensive backs right now. He is the highest rated remaining defensive back at no. 38 overall. Played for the Indianapolis Colts last season, collecting 3 INT’s in 10 games.
– Morris Claiborne- ranked no. 44 overall, he started in 15 games for the Jets last season with one interception and a career-high in tackles (34) for the first time since his rookie year when he totaled 43.
– E.J. Gaines- no. 47 overall, started in 11 games for the Buffalo Bills last season logging one interception. At only 25 years old, Gaines still has plenty left in the tank.
– Justin Bethel- rounds out the list at no. 61. The 6th year defensive back of the Arizona Cardinals is looking for a new home. Bethel only started in 6 games last year and only 3 games the year before. His usage and reliability may be something for Green Bay to think about.

Now a look at the Chicago Bears off-season adjustments.
I guess we can start with the biggest name heading to Chicago (so far), Allen Robinson. Robinson was signed to the Bears on a three-year, $42 million contract. After four seasons with Jacksonville, Robinson made a name for himself on a pretty lackluster offense. Before his ACL injury last season, Robinson totaled 80 catches for 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns. More than average numbers at the wide receiver position. He adds size, standing at 6-foot-3 and plenty of skill, as the numbers show. He has the potential to be the Bears go-to receiver and should shine in the Matt Nagy system.

An underrated, but very necessary signing for the Chicago Bears was quarterback Chase Daniel. Daniel played behind Drew Brees last season and has direct ties with new head coach, Matt Nagy. Nagy worked with Daniel in Kansas City (2015-16) but also with Bears general manager Ryan Pace from 2010-2012. Sure, Daniel hasn’t started that many games, but he has sat behind future hall-of-fame quarterback Drew Brees and he undoubtedly knows the Matt Nagy system. Who better to guide a young quarterback (Mitchell Trubisky), than someone who has been in the league since 2010 and sat behind a super bowl champion? The answer to that could be Chase Daniel.

The signing of wide receiver Taylor Gabriel was a big one for the Bears but nothing to jump for joy about. Gabriel is a speedy slot receiver who played next to the talented Julio Jones and Nuhammed Sanu. Gabriel has seen success at the wide receiver position, but will most likely fill the slot position for the Bears. Who knows, maybe he could return a few kicks and punts for the Bears who only had two punt return touchdowns and zero kick return touchdowns last year. “He is a speedster and one heck of a mismatch,” Nagy said. “But he is not our only play maker on offense.” Nagy is optimistic, but knows relying on one player is something he cannot afford.

Onto the other side of the ball with some defensive thoughts.
The Bears have been known for their defense for years, but that slowed down a little bit last year. General manager, Ryan Pace, made it clear that defense was something he wanted to attack head on in this year’s free agency. By re-signing outside linebacker Sam Acho and corner back Prince Amukamara, they are in good shape to build from the ground up with some guys who thrived in defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s defense. While those signings serve more as band-aids, not really permanent, the Bears are too looking at the same available defenders as the Packers. Nothing like a good inter division tug-of-war.

While free agency is still open, many experts think it is pretty much over. Big names like Robinson, Landry, Graham,and Cousins have all found new homes and the decision to pay for a short-term contract doesn’t really appeal to most teams. According to Spotrac, the average NFL team already has $36 million of open cap space going into the 2018 off-season, even before cap casualties are announced. That is a nice chuck of change, but with the number obscene contracts going around the league, that money goes faster than you think.

This off-season has been one for the books. Green Bay has finally reached their hand into the free-agent cookie jar and signed some veteran players that could help them get back on track. With a healthy Aaron Rodgers, some would say Jimmy Graham is in store for quite the year. Who can remember the last time Rodgers had a top five tight end at his disposal? Now that is a scary thought. Chicago has been the butt of many jokes, especially in the NFC North, but not this year. With legit signings of Robinson, Gabriel, and Trey Burton, the Bears are looking to improve from their underwhelming season last year.

All stats and information on players come from Pro-Football-Reference.

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