Clarksville, Ark.-The Lady Eagles came two games closer to claiming the American Southwest Conference East Division championship with a 69-50 win over Austin College while the Eagles lost their second place standing after a 89-84 overtime setback to the Kangaroos.
The Lady Eagles, who lost to Austin College 61-55 in December, will need to win their two remaining games in order to give themselves at least a share of the conference title. Two more wins would also have U of O hosting the women’s American Southwest Conference post-season tournament. Despite the loss, the Eagles’ task of earning a spot in the playoffs continues to be attainable. U of O will face two teams this week that they have already beaten on their home floor. If the Eagles win their two remaining games, they qualify automatically. A loss on Thursday and U of O will need to rely on certain teams losing. The Lady Eagles held only a 28-25 lead at intermission due to hitting only 30 percent of their field goal attempts and being out rebounded 26-17. But the strong inside play of post players Mandy Thomas and Christie Shuffield proved to be too much for the visiting Lady Kangaroos. "We are a post oriented team," said head coach Jack Jones. "The player’s understand each other’s roles and one of our main objectives is to put the ball in the paint area. When our post players play well, the team plays well." Thomas and Shuffield combined to score six straight baskets within a five-minute span early in the second half to give the Lady Eagles a comfortable lead. Thomas scored on four straight hook shots and Shuffield hit two more to give Ozarks a 15-point advantage with under ten minutes to play. The Lady Eagles increased their lead to 60-44 after Charity Tyree nailed her third three-pointer of the game with 6:52 left in the game. "It’s a good feeling for our players because they stepped up and came out with a victory," said Jones. "Austin College was in a must win position just as we were. Our players gave an outstanding effort and we need to repeat that kind of effort in the next two games." Thomas scored a game high 23 points on 10-of-23 shooting from the field. Thomas, who received ASC Player of the Week honors following two wins last week, also collected 7 rebounds. Shuffield followed Thomas with 20 points and 8 rebounds. Shuffield also had 3 blocked shots. The Lady Eagles hit 9-of-11 (81%) from the free throw line in the game. The Eagles led 25-15 with 5:41 left in the first half after a Brent Johnson lay-up. U of O trailed the Kangaroos 28-27 at halftime despite Austin only hitting 26 percent of their shots from the field. A Brian Henderson three-pointer pushed the Eagles lead to 47-42 with 10:32 left in the game, but Austin would storm back behind the play of guard Wes Guinn. Guinn scored nine straight points for the Kangaroos in a key stretch of the latter part of the game. "I thought the turning point in the game was when they had back to back three point plays," said head coach Matt O’Connor. "If we could have held the ball a little longer and made better decisions we maybe could have had a chance to win." Ricky Johnson hit back to back three-pointers to give Ozarks a 65-60 lead with 4:52 left in the game. The Kangaroos eventually took back the lead with under one minute to play, but a Henderson baseline shot with: 33 seconds left sent the game into overtime. The Kangaroos then hit a shot and would lead throughout the overtime period. "Our guys competed hard, we just had some breakdowns and didn’t execute offensively at the end. Our loss wasn’t for a lack of effort." Brent Johnson led the Eagles with 23 points. Johnson shot 8-of-13 from the field and hit 5-of-6 from the free throw line. Henderson scored 22 points with Ricky Johnson and Mandrell Howell scoring 19 and 17 points, respectively. Henderson’s stellar night included two three-point field goals. Howell tallied a team high 10 rebounds from his guard position.