The Golden Suns won their third GAC tournament title Sunday 63-62 over Harding but not after a typical Tech/Harding finish. These two teams played for the title last year and Harding came out victorious 75-73. So, the Suns were looking for some revenge on Sunday.
They came out like a championship prized fighter and Tech would come with a hard punch early but Harding wouldn’t go away without countering. After five minutes in the first quarter, Harding lead Tech 13-8. The first quarter ended with Harding leading 18-12. Tech was under some early adversity, which was similar to the way last year’s game started out.
Harding started out the second quarter on an 8-5 run to extend their lead to 26-18 going into the media timeout. Tech kept chipping away at that Harding lead and finally regained their first lead since the first minute of the game when Pine Bluff native Jayana Sanders hit a layup to give the Golden Suns a 27-26 lead with 3:12 left in the first half. ATU would extend their lead out to 34-30 but Harding’s Peyton Padgett hit a layup with 35 seconds left until half to take the halftime score 34-32, Tech leading.
In the second half, the intensity of this game was heightened, which is typical of any Tech/Harding game, whether it be a regular season matchup or in the postseason. Tech would extend their lead to 39-34 within the first two minutes of the second half. Harding would cut the lead to one but going into the third quarter media timeout, Tech extended the lead back 45-42 with about four minutes left in the third quarter.
Crystal, Minnesota native Lyrik Williams hit a layup with 2:30 left in the third quarter to give Tech its biggest lead of the ball game 51-42.
Despite holding the biggest lead of the game, Harding ended the quarter on a 5-0 run to have the score after three full quarters 51-47 Golden Suns.
Harding cut the lead to two to start the fourth quarter. Tech would then extend their lead back out to 57-51 on a Sanders layup with 6:52 left in the game. Harding cuts the lead to 63-62 on a three-pointer by Sydney Layrock with 1:56 left in the contest.
On the last possession of the game, Carissa Caples of Harding misses the jumper as time expired and the Golden Suns held on to receive their third GAC women’s basketball tournament championship, which is the most GAC titles held by any school in the conference and also received the automatic bid into the Division II national tournament.
It was a game for the ages and Ozark native Kylie Ladd said in her postgame interview, “We hang in there, we play together and we are Tech Tough.” Tech is 13-0 this year with games decided by 5 points or less. Ladd, Williams and Gallatin, TN native Cheyenne North were all named to the GAC All-Tournament team. North won the tournament’s most valuable player award with 16 points, eight rebounds, six assists and nine blocks in the game. Ladd ended the game with four points and four assists. Williams and Sanders contributed 12 and 10 points respectively.
The Golden Suns’ postseason run continues on Friday at 8 p.m. against the Northern State Wolves in the Central Region Tournament first round.