Emily Pollock knew she had to make the shot.
A successful 3-pointer would mean a lead for Pollock and the rest of the Austin Peay State University women’s basketball team in double overtime. A miss, however, would give opposing Eastern Illinois University its chance to take the lead in this afternoon’s Ohio Valley Conference Championship in Nashville, Tennessee.
After draining the shot, Pollock and the Governors (17-15) went on a 10-0 run and never looked back, defeating the EIU Panthers (24-9) in double overtime 69-65 to earn a spot in the NCAA tournament next week.
Pollock’s 13 points in the effort are a career-high for the freshman. Before hitting the game winner, Pollock stole the ball from EIU’s Dominique Sims with just over a minute remaining in the first overtime period before depositing a layup to tie the game at 54.
“It was just adrenaline flowing through me,” Pollock said.
The Panthers defeated the Governors twice in the regular season by double digits, but the last matchup between the two teams also ended in a Governors overtime win. To reach the championship game, the Governors defeated fourth-ranked Morehead State in the opening round of the conference tournament before knocking off top-seeded Murray State in the semifinals.
Regardless of the rankings, Austin Peay senior April Thomas said the Governors knew what they were capable of.
“Nobody thought we would be here,” Thomas said. “We had confidence. We knew it would be hard, but we fought.”
EIU led 20-18 at halftime before the Panthers took a six-point lead with ten minutes to go in the game. The Governors battled back to tie it before Pollock scored her only points of regulation on a layup with 5:29 left to give APSU their first lead of the second half.
EIU hit a late 3-pointer and the two teams swapped free throws to get to overtime tied at 48. After the low event first overtime period, the teams settled the game in a second overtime.
Despite the rankings prior to the tournament, the Governors will represent the Ohio Valley Conference in the NCAA tournament.
“As the season went on, we started thinking ‘if we keep pushing through, keep pushing through and keep playing we’ll be OK,’” said Thomas, who was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
Her coach agreed.
“They kept fighting, that’s what they do,” Austin Peay head coach Carrie Daniels said of her players.
On the other sideline, Eastern Illinois head coach Brady Sallee said he was proud of his team’s effort, but at the end of the day they ran into a team that refused to lose.
“I’m very proud of my kids’ effort. We ran into a hot basketball team that had a lot of confidence and played like it tonight. We got down to the end and the needle was on E,” he said.
APSU has plenty to celebrate tonight, and they should do just that. But when they show up to practice tomorrow they should probably begin to plan ahead—The Govs are headed to the big dance.