On Monday night, the Lady Bisons became the first team in Great American Conference (GAC) history to make it to the Central Regional Championship game after defeating the Emporia State Lady Hornets, 58-56.
Senior guard A’ndrea Haney was the first to score for the Lady Bisons after both teams went scoreless for more than two minutes in the first quarter. At the end of the first quarter, Harding trailed Emporia 14-11.
The Lady Hornets went on a 10-0 run with about four minutes left in the second quarter. Harding rallied to make it 38-24 to mark the end of the first half.
“‘Guys, this isn’t us; we’re way better than this,’” Haney reported saying to the team at halftime. “Another thing that went through my head was, ‘We’ve been here before, and we can come back.’”
Harding started out the third quarter with a 7-0 run. Then with 4:04 left in the third quarter, the Lady Hornets called a timeout. The Lady Bisons cut the lead down to seven at 46-39 at the end of the quarter.
“I think that overall we just stick together through the tough times during games really well,” sophomore center Sydnie Jones said. “Usually for teams, they get torn apart in hard times, but for us, it’s just the opposite.”
Freshman guard Peyton Padgett scored to drop the lead to six at 48-42 with 2 minutes remaining in the third. The Lady Hornets remained scoreless for the rest of the quarter.
Jones began the fourth quarter with a layup, cutting the lead to 4, the closest margin since the 18 point lead the Lady Hornets held at halftime.
“Starting this season, I could tell our team had an amazing amount of potential,” Jones said. “As the season went along I started to see how far this team could go.”
After another scoreless 3 minutes for both teams, sophomore forward Caroline Hogue scored and gained a shot from the free throw line. She made the shot, narrowing the Lady Hornets’ lead to 1 point.
Emporia State remained scoreless in the last 5 minutes, with 4:10 remaining, and went 0-5 on their FG.
“How much fun is that to play in front of?” head coach Tim Kirby said, referring to the cheering crowd which filled the field house. “I don’t think they (the Lady Bisons) heard a word I said, and I was screaming.”
Haney scored with 1:18 left in the fourth making it 56-55. Jones hit it off the board to give Harding the lead for the first time since the first quarter, bringing the score to 57-56 with 11 seconds left.
Sophomore guard Riley Rose sealed the game with a free throw, giving the Lady Bisons a win at 58-56.
“We didn’t come back all that way to lose in a last-second shot,” Caroline Hogue said. “I think it was all heart; we executed what we needed to do.”
Coming into the game, the No. 10 Lady Bisons were 29-3, and the No. 6 Emporia State Lady Hornets were 29-4. With this victory, the Lady Bisons advance to the Elite Eight for the first time in school history. The team will play next in Columbus, Ohio, on March 21. Further information was not available at press time.