Panthers’ fourth quarter rally leads to taking first place in OVC


Han Byer

Eastern guard, Lariah Washington (22), attempts a jump shot against Little Rock guard, Tia Harvey (12) in Lantz Arena on Saturday evening. The Panthers won 44-33 against the Trojans.

Kate Stevens, Assistant Sports Editor

The Eastern women’s basketball team is now the front runner of the Ohio Valley Conference as they beat Little Rock 44-33 in a defensive matchup Saturday afternoon at Lantz Arena.

As they took the number one spot, they also remain undefeated in conference as they have won their last six games.

Coach Matt Bollant said he knew coming into the game that it was going to be a defensive battle.

“We knew it was going to be (defensive) coming in, obviously they’re really good defensively,” Bollant said.

The team scored just 44 points, but was able to hold Little Rock to just 33 total points. This is just half the amount of points EIU scored on Thursday, but it shows just how defensive this battle was.

Senior guard Lariah Washington said that the team focused on the defensive end of things going into the game and that the team stuck well to their plan.

“We knew coming in that we’re both good defensive teams, so just focusing on defense overall,” Washington said. “And I think we stuck to all we planned for and I think that’s why we held them so low.”

Bollant said he was proud of the way his team played as they answered strongly with their play on defense.

“I was just proud of our team,” Bollant said. “Kind of a gritty, hard-nosed win and as a coach those might be the ones that you’re the most proud of. I’m more proud of my team today because we fought and defended and followed the game plan really well and beat a team that was 5-0 in our league.”

Little Rock’s best player, Sali Kourouma, was out due to a coach’s decision made before the game, which was an advantage to EIU.

Bollant said as it made things easier, he thought the team rallied without her during the first half.

“Early, I think they kind of did that without her,” Bollant said. “But thankfully, I feel like we wore them down with our defense and I think that their frustration level kind of grew in that fourth quarter.”

Bollant said he talked to his team going into the fourth quarter about finishing strong and enjoying the fight even though the game had been tough. He told his team to go out there and make some shots and in the end it will feel good.

“Sometimes you get in a game like this and you’re offended because they’re fighting because they’re so good defensively,” Bollant said. “I said beforehand, ‘let’s enjoy this, as it goes on, it’s gonna be a grind and this can be frustrating at times, but that’s okay, it’s gonna make the feeling after the game so much better.’”

The team took Bollant’s words and turned them into reality. They really stepped things up in the fourth quarter as they had their biggest lead of 16 as well as a scoring run of 14. Little Rock was never able to take the lead during the close game, but EIU made the game almost impossible to take with their scoring in the fourth quarter.

Bollant said that he was proud of his team’s focus and play in the fourth quarter.

“I thought Miah (Monahan) started in the fourth quarter with a great take and finish and then she found Taris (Thornton) knocking down a shot, going from a four-point to an eight-point lead, it felt like a huge difference, even though it was only four points.”

Washington and sophomore forward, Macy McGlone were announced as the players of the game as they both scored 14 points. Washington also recorded 6 rebounds and an assist and McGlone had 12 rebounds.

McGlone said having that honor felt good as she put up a double-double against Little Rock.

“It felt pretty good,” McGlone said. “I had a lot of games this year where I either had more points or more rebounds, so to do well in both areas is sweet.”

The team now sits at 14-3 (6-0 OVC) as they have a few days before they hit the road for a few games including Tennessee State who knocked them out in the first round of the OVC tournament last season, so it is sure to be a matchup to watch.

McGlone said the team’s plan going forward is to keep doing the things they have been doing.

“Just keep doing what we’ve been doing,” McGlone said. “It’s a long conference season. We’re almost halfway done, but we still have to meet everyone again.”

Eastern forward, Macy McGlone (33), attempts to make a shot against Little Rock forward, Nikki Metcalfe (32) in Lantz Arena. The Panthers won 44-33 against the Trojans Saturday evening. (Han Byer)

Bollant said the team will celebrate Saturday’s accomplishments accordingly and get back into it so they can get ready for those road matches coming up.

Eastern will play at Tennessee State on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. where they will go for their seventh win in a row to remain undefeated in conference.


Kate Stevens can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]