Aggies heading to the DI Women's Basketball National Tournament
For the first time since 1981, the Murray State College women’s basketball team is going to the national tournament. The Aggies defeated Eastern Oklahoma State College on Saturday to take home the title.
"I'm just really happy to see our ladies' hard work pay off,” says Head Coach Justin Cellum. “They've worked really hard since day one, and it was a lot of fun to watch everything come together at the right time."
The Aggies, seeded No. 8, took care of No. 9 seed Western Oklahoma State College at home in the first game of the tournament last Monday night (68-81) before heading to Shawnee for the rest of the tournament.
In an exciting Quarterfinal game, the Aggies faced off against No. 1 seed Northeastern Oklahoma A & M College. NEO led most of the first half, but the second half proved to be a battle. A long three-point shot by Tierani Richardson with seconds left sent the game into overtime, allowing the Aggies to pull ahead and take the game 77-72. In the semifinal game, the Aggies defeated Northern Oklahoma College-Tonkawa 54-94 earning the trip to the finals on Saturday.
“After we played Western Oklahoma in the opening round of the regional tournament we talked about how capable we were of beating anyone in our region,” Cellum says. “We kind of lived with the motto of ‘Why not us?’ the rest of the week. Before the championship game we talked again about being very capable of beating Eastern.”
By the time MSC reached the final game, the team was on a roll. The Aggies took control of the game and never gave up command, eventually coming out on top 53-69.
“After the first few minutes of the game I felt like we were going to have a chance to win because we were defending well,” says Cellum. “I thought we did a great job of controlling the tempo and not letting Eastern gain any momentum.”
Tierani Richardson led scorers with 23 points, Tine Randrup-Thomsen added 18 points and 6 rebounds, Ebony Harrison chipped in 12 points and 11 rebounds, and Devyn Johnson added 8 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals.
Cellum credits the Aggies’ strong defense and teamwork in the tournament win. “Our ladies played outstanding defense all three games. They did a great job of executing the game plan. We held each team to less than 30% from the field.”
Richardson was named the Tournament MVP and a member of the All-Tournament Team. In the regional tournament, Richardson put up a total of 87 points. Currently she is ranked No. 3 in the nation in total number of three-point field goals for the season (103), and No. 10 in total points (625).
Ebony Harrison was also named to the All-Tournament Team. She put up 52 points in the tournament, and brought down 55 rebounds.
“Ebony had done an outstanding job on the glass for us,” says Cellum. “She has had double digit rebounds in each of our last six games.”
Cellum and the Aggies take the trip to the Bicentennial Center in Salina, Kansas for the National Tournament during Spring Break (March 16 – 21). No. 24 seed MSC takes on No. 9 seed Northwest Florida State in the first round Monday at Noon. Cellum says it will be business as usual to prepare for the tournament. “We are going to prepare for the National Tournament the same way we did for the Regional Tournament, and see what happens. Our number one goal is to represent Murray State College with class. Next, is just to play confident and have fun. If we play hard and take care of the details the results will take care of themselves.”
Crowd energy can help motivate team during play, and Cellum says was impressed with the turnout at the Regional Tournament. He hopes fans will get a chance to make to the trip to Kansas. “We had a great crowd all three games at the regional tournament and I've received an unbelievable amount of phone calls and text messages from the people of our community. I want our players and fans to really enjoy this once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Click here for the DI Women's Basketball National Tournament Bracket