Washington’s leadership in fourth quarter helps EIU remain undefeated


Han Byer

Eastern guard, Lariah Washington (22), breaks a double team against Southeast Missouri Redhawks guard, Jaliyah Green (24), and another Redhawks player. The Panthers won 63-57 against the Redhawks in Lantz Arena on Saturday.

Kate Stevens, Assistant Sports Editor

Senior guard Lariah Washington has exhibited true leadership skills on the court for the Eastern women’s basketball team.

Her 6-0 run and 25 total points against SEMO late in the fourth quarter led to the Panthers to pick up their 10th straight win.

The Panthers beat SEMO 63-57 after a close game with the Redhawks.

SEMO was able to shut down the Panthers in the paint as they were only able to pick up 26 points in the paint.

As EIU and SEMO kept up with each other throughout the nine lead changes and four times being tied, Washington knew the team had to pick it up with just a few minutes remaining in the fourth.

As mentioned earlier, she went on a 6-0 run by herself after she could be seen gathering her teammates and talking with them as the game started to get down to the final moments.

“I’m just trying to be a good example and just trying to pick everybody up,” Washington said. “Just going into the fourth quarter, we knew we needed to score, we knew we needed to defend, so I was just telling everyone to have confidence and just doing what we know we can do.”

Her team followed her words and looked their best in the fourth quarter.

In the fourth quarter, they scored 20 points, which was the highest of the quarters and had their best scoring percentage of the game, which was 41.7%.

The team went on a 13-0 scoring run with under four minutes remaining in the game.

Sophomore forward Taris Thornton had something to do with that as well.

Before Washington’s six-point run, she went on a 5-0 run herself. She was a big part of the win as she put up 15 total points for the Panthers.

“I mean, I just felt like I needed to step up and just bring energy for the team,” Thornton said.

Eastern forward, Taris Thornton (25), drives towards the basket, breaking away from SEMO Redhawks forward, Kennedi Watkins (14). The Panthers won 63-57 against the Redhawks in Lantz Arena on Saturday. (Han Byer)

Coach Matt Bollant said he trusted his team to put everything they had into the fourth quarter.

“I felt like we fought back and we kept our poise,” Bollant said. “They made the plays and I thought in the fourth quarter we just played with joy, we played with energy, we just got back to being ourselves. It took us a little while to get there, but when we got there, we were pretty special down the stretch.”

Bollant also said his team has resiliency as they didn’t get flustered as SEMO’s lead got up to six near the beginning of the fourth quarter.

“We didn’t panic,” Bollant said. “We kept being ourselves and then just that fight on defense in the fourth quarter where we held them to 27% (shooting).”

He said when the team they face plays well, it makes them even better. He credited SEMO as they put up a fight against the team to beat in the OVC.

Bollant said he wants his team to have fun playing the game of basketball while they are out on the court and at the end of the day that is all that matters. He said if they continue to have fun and work hard at the game they love that good things will keep happening.

The Panthers have eight games left, four of which are at home. There’s a lot of playing time left for EIU as they are on the road for the OVC tournament in March.

Their next game is at Lindenwood on Thursday evening where they will face the Lions at 5:30 p.m.

EIU’s annual CARE game is Saturday afternoon on Feb. 4 as they host Tennessee State at 1 p.m.