Daniel Mayes, Sports Editor
The drought is over.
The Jacksonville State women’s basketball team defeated Morehead State 69-56 to win their first Ohio Valley Conference Tournament game since 2014.
The last victory came four seasons ago when the Gamecocks took down Tennessee Tech to reach the semifinals. JSU missed the tournament in 2016 and 2017.
“I’m really happy for these kids and I’m really happy they got to experience a tournament victory,” Head Coach Rick Pietri said after the game. “It’s big for our program moving forward.”
The Gamecocks came out strong from the start, scoring the first eight points of the contest, including five from Tyler Phelion.
“Cocoa” was the star of the game for JSU, as the senior forward scored early and often, totaling 24 points for the game. That mark was one point shy of Phelion’s career-high of 25, giving Phelion the second-highest scoring game in OVC Tournament history. Freddricka Embry put up 25 in a 2004 loss to Eastern Kentucky.
“Cocoa was outstanding today,” said coach Pietri. “She’s saving her best for last. She’s been really good the last couple of weeks.”
Morehead state responded after the early Gamecock lead, trimming the margin to just one at 25-24 with 4:34 remaining in the first half.
Jacksonville State refused to let the Eagles take the lead, however.
Jayla Walker and Taylor Hawks hit three-pointers on back to back possesions, and then Phelion netted another two, pushing the Gamecock lead back to nine.
After Jacksonville State went into the locker room with a 35-29 lead, the two teams traded baskets in a back-and-forth third quarter.
The Eagles managed to cut the Gamecock lead to three, but JSU closed strong, and a Kiana Johnson and-one layup pushed the margin back to 10 at 49-39 just before the quarter break.
JSU used a 20-15 fourth quarter to seize control down the stretch. Chloe Long bucketed six of her 12 points in the final frame to keep the Eagles at arms length.
Long’s 12 equals a season-high for the sophomore, as she scored a dozen in the Gamecocks’ very first game this year.
The Gamecocks move on to face top-seeded Belmont in the semifinals. The Bruins finished the regular season 18-0 in the conference and took down Jacksonville State 66-35 on Feb. 21.
Jacksonville State will look to pull the upset in a 1:00 p.m. tipoff Friday.