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Otahks give up run, game to Austin Peay
Austin Peay's women are making a habit of finishing games on fire.
Saturday afternoon at the Show Me Center, that trait burned Southeast Missouri State University in a key Ohio Valley Conference matchup.
The Lady Governors scored the game's final 14 points to wipe out a late 10-point deficit and they secured a 77-73 victory and took over third place in the OVC.
Austin Peay improved to 12-7 overall and 5-3 in the OVC. The Otahkians, who had a four-game winnings streak snapped, are 12-7 and 4-4 as they dipped into fifth place in the OVC, one-half game behind Morehead State.
"Just about all our games have gone to the wire," said Austin Peay coach Susie Gardner, whose squad used a game-ending 16-2 run to clip Eastern Illinois by 11 Thursday. "It's not comfortable as a coach to live through these, but at the same time our kids have confidence in these situations."
For the Otahkians, it was a stunning blow as they lost at home for the fourth time to an upper-echelon OVC squad.
"It's very, very disappointing," said Southeast coach Ed Arnzen. "I thought we had the game under control, but I thought Austin Peay stepped it up. They were a lot more aggressive the last three, four minutes. We went lethargic and they hit some big shots."
The Otahkians, who trailed 58-52 midway through the second half, were behind 62-61 when they used a 12-1 run -- getting six points each from Lori Chase and Veronica Benson -- to grab a 73-63 lead with 4:08 remaining.
But the Otahkians went cold while the Lady Govs got hot. A basket by Gerlonda Hardin and 3-pointers by Paige Smith and Kelly Chavez quickly cut the deficit to 73-71.
With 52 seconds left, Hardin hit one of two free throws to make it 73-72 and Austin Peay came up with the rebound of the miss. That led to a driving bank shot from in close by Brooke Armistead with 32 seconds remaining, putting the Lady Govs up for good at 74-73.
Armistead, a junior guard who is the OVC's second-leading scorer at 21.5 points per game, scored 22 Saturday, but just six came in the second half. However, she was determined to come through in the clutch.
"They did a good job in the second half and forced me into some tough shots, but at the end of the game I wanted the ball," she said.
Benson and LaShelle Porter missed shots in the closing seconds and Austin Peay's Shatika Hutcherson was fouled with 3.8 seconds left. She made the front end of a one-and-one for a 75-73 lead, but Southeast failed to grab the rebound and Hardin scored a putback at the buzzer to close things out.
Hardin, a powerful sophomore forward who was last year's OVC Freshman of the Year, had a big game with 24 points and 17 rebounds, 12 on the offensive end. She scored 20 points in the second half.
Benson led Southeast with 22 points. Also in double figures were Chase with 16, Tiffany Melis with 13 and Pam Iversen with 12. Benson and Chase each grabbed eight rebounds, but the Otahkians lost the board battle 44-33. Melis hit three of four 3-pointers.
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