Panthers are 2019 SLIAC Women's Basketball Champions

Panthers are 2019 SLIAC Women's Basketball Champions

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The 2019 St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Women's Basketball Championship game lived up to its billing as the top two seeds of the tournament, Greenville University and Spalding University, met on Saturday. The foes split the regular season matchup and the championship game was just as even with 11 lead changes and 4 ties. But after 40 minutes of play, it was Greenville that claims the 2019 SLIAC tournament title with a 72-66 win. 

After the teams traded early buckets Allison Just sparked Spalding to a five-point lead with back to back field goals. The Golden Eagles extended their lead to 16-8 on a three-pointer from Kailey Reed but the Panthers were able to get back into the game and more by scoring the final 11 points of the first quarter.  

Greenville continued their run at the start of the second opening up a nine-point lead after a jumper by Wesley Woodard made the score 27-18. It was then Spalding's turn for a run, tying the game up at 27, on a three from Maleah Hirn. The teams continued to trade the lead for the final five minutes before the half with Greenville taking a 34-31 lead into the break after a Lauren Eagleson layup at the buzzer. 

 The third quarter alone featured two ties and six lead changes. A pair of late free throws by Savanna Pinkston made the score 50-46, giving Spalding a two-possession lead over Greenville with just 27-seconds left in the quarter. But Greenville senior Jantzen Michael kept the Panthers close with a scoop shot from under the basket as time expired in the quarter. 

Greenville claimed the lead once again two minutes into the fourth quarter when Emily Brandland drained a three to make the score 53-52; marking the Panthers first lead in nearly six minutes of play. The Panthers pushed their lead up to nine points with under four minutes left, equaling the largest lead of the game. Spalding missed nine consecutive shots during the Panther run, a span of over seven minutes.

Tse Gahagan gave Spalding last shot of energy when she hit a three with two minutes left that pulled the Golden Eagles to within six. Megan Goeing kept hopes alive when the followed with a three of her own to bring the score to 65-62 with 1:22 on the clock. Spalding had a chance to tie the game after a Greenville turnover but Greenville's Morgan St. James defended the Panther lead with a blocked shot that led to a fast break attack, drawing a foul and sending Michael to the line. Michael drained both free throws and the Panthers were able to breathe as their lead grew after hitting five of six from the charity stripe in the closing moments.

St. James was named the SLIAC Tournament MVP after finishing with 19 points, six rebounds, and six blocked shots. Joining her on the All-Tournament team were fellow Panthers, Megan Barrett and Wesley Woodard. This is Greenville's second SLIAC Championship in program history, joining the 2016 team. 

Spalding was led by Allison Just's 14 points, earning her an All-Tournament selection along with teammate Hunter Wright. Also making the All-Tournament team was Kendahl Adams, from Westminster College, and Addison Beussink, from Webster University.