Daniel Mayes, Staff Reporter
The Jacksonville State University women’s basketball team wrapped up their 2016-17 season on Saturday after an 85-82 loss to Morehead State left the Gamecocks just short of a berth in the OVC tournament.
JSU led by as many as 12 at one point over MSU, but the Eagles recovered to knock off the hot-shooting Gamecocks.
Jacksonville State, who finished the year at 13-15, including 6-10 in the Ohio Valley Conference, played their best basketball to finish off the season, winning three straight OVC contests by double digits prior to the loss to Morehead on Saturday, but their late push was not enough to extend their season.
Seniors starred in what would be their final game in a Gamecock uniform, as Briana Benson led the way with 21 points, Lacey Buchanon chipped in 11 and two steals and fellow senior Kelly Naughton scored two points in her final game.
JSU equaled a school record in the first half with a 61.5 shooting percentage, a mark that was first set against Auburn in 2005, en route to 42 points and a three-point lead at the break.
A 13-0 Jacksonville State run that began with 4:41 left in the second quarter gave the Gamecocks a seven-point lead, but the Eagles cut the lead to 42-39.
JSU stayed hot to begin the second half and quickly built up a 12-point lead at 56-44 with 4:31 left in the third on the strength of six quick points from Tyler Phelion.
Phelion finished with 20 points and 4 rebounds, and she made 10 of her 12 free throw attempts.
MSU cut the lead to four in the waning moments of the third, but Rayven Pearson’s first 3-point attempt of the entire season found the net at the buzzer to make the score 64-57 heading into the fourth.
The Eagles continued chipping away at the JSU lead in the fourth, and Morehead State finally took the lead with 5:41 remaining.
The Gamecocks weren’t able to regain the lead, but a Buchanon layup cut the Eagle advantage to 84-82 with only 28 seconds left.
Morehead made the score 85-82 on a Miranda Crockett free throw with 12 seconds left, and Buchanon’s game-tying 3-point attempt with 3 seconds remaining missed the mark.
Jacksonville State was outscored 28-18 in the fourth quarter on the way to their 85-82 season-ending defeat.
Benson, Buchanon and Naughton will all depart the Jacksonville State program after finishing up their college careers on Saturday, and senior Destany McLin, who scored over 1,000 points at JSU but missed most of the year due to injury, also sees her career come to an end.
Despite losing McLin as well as Chloe Long and Ki-Ki Patterson early in the season due to injury, head coach Rick Pietri’s squad rebounded to finish the season strong despite narrowly missing the OVC Tournament.