#7 Concord def. #2 West Virginia St., 86-83 (OT)

#7 Concord def. #2 West Virginia St., 86-83 (OT)

Box Score

WHEELING – Senior Nakaila Gray nailed an open 3-point field goal from the left wing with four seconds remaining in regulation to help seventh-seeded Concord tie second-seeded West Virginia State at 73 and force overtime in the quarterfinals of the annual Mountain East Conference Women’s Basketball Tournament here Thursday afternoon at WesBanco Arena.

Gray’s big-time shot fueled the Mountain Lions in overtime as they went on to outscore the Yellow Jackets 13-10 in the extra five minutes and pull off a thrilling 86-83 victory over the NCAA Division II Atlantic Region’s fifth-ranked team.

“These kids have a fire in their eyes and a determination for each other, our program and the school they represent,” first-year Concord coach Tesla Southcott said. “They’re not done yet. I’m excited for the next game. This is a great moment for us and we’re going to enjoy it and embrace it, but we’re not done. We’ve got more work to do.”

The win improved Concord to 14-16 on the year and puts the Mountain Lions in the tournament’s semifinals for the first time since the 2019-20 season. Concord will face third-seeded University of Charleston Saturday at 2:30 p.m. The Golden Eagles (22-7) eliminated sixth-seeded Wheeling University Thursday.

West Virginia State fell to 22-6 with the loss Thursday. The Yellow Jackets will find out if they’ve done enough to make the NCAA Atlantic Regional on Sunday evening

“You’ve got to give credit to Concord,” said State coach Charles Marshall. “They came out, played extremely hard and made plays at the end. Their victory was well deserved.

“I hope we’ve done enough to keep playing. These ladies have worked their tails off all season to put us in the position we’re in being nationally-ranked and beating some top teams this year. In my opinion I think it would be hard to keep us out."

State used a 10-0 run over a span of 3:22 in the third quarter to wipe out a nine-point deficit and take a short-lived 47-46 advantage with 3:54 to play in the quarter. Concord, however, answered that run with an impressive 11-2 spurt of its own in the last 3:36 of the quarter to open a 57-49 lead heading into the final 10 minutes of regulation.

Early in the fourth State dominated play. The Yellow Jackets outscored Concord 24-13 in the first 9:50 of the last quarter, held a 73-70 advantage and had the basketball in the backcourt with 10 seconds left in regulation.

State inbounded the ball to guard Zakorrah Russell in the corner and she was quickly double-teamed and tied up by Concord’s Gray and Jaisah Smith forcing a held ball and giving possession to the Mountain Lions with just eight ticks left on the clock.

Concord got the ball in, rotated it to Gray on the left wing and she drained the three to force overtime.

“On the inbound I knew we had to be aggressive because we needed to get the ball back,” Gray said. “We’ve worked all year on trapping in the corner and once the ball went there I knew we could get it.

“On the shot all I could hear in my head was coach T telling me all year to not be passive and to shoot it. I knew I had her confidence, so I knew I could make it. When it went through it was just nuts. When we were in the huddle jumping around after we had forced overtime I had to get out of there because I could barely even breathe I was so excited.”

State’s Russell got a good look at a long three as the buzzer was sounding to end regulation but it was off the mark.

A Hannah Shriver 3-pointer early in OT gave State a 76-73 advantage, but after a pair of Maggie Guynn free throws and a put-back basket by Abby Smith with 3:24 left Concord took a 77-76 lead and never trailed again.

Smith and Guynn both played huge roles in the victory for Concord. Smith, a freshman forward, scored a career-high 29 points and grabbed a team-high 15 rebounds. It was her team-leading ninth double-double of the season. She actually achieved a double-double in the opening half finishing the first 20 minutes of the game with 12 points and 10 boards.

Guynn, meanwhile, finished with 15 points, nine of which came from the foul line where she finished 9-of-10. She was a perfect 6-of-6 from the line in overtime, including 4-of-4 in the game’s final 11 seconds.

Gray chipped in 13 points and eight rebounds for Concord, while Jaisah Smith contributed 12 points and eight boards.

Destiny Fields led West Virginia State with 21 points and 15 rebounds. It was her fourth double-double of the season. She also got a good look at a three as time ran out in overtime but it was just wide of the rim.

“My teammates trust me and if I’m open I’m definitely going to shoot the last shot,” Fields said. “I knew we had a couple of seconds left and I just tried to play unconsciously. As soon as I got it I just pulled up and shot it.

“This is hard. We know because of what we’ve done this season we’re always going to get everyone’s best game. We have to be prepared for that.”

The Yellow Jackets also got 18 points from Anysa Jordan, 13 from Russell and 10 from Shelby Harmeyer.

Concord shot 41.3 percent from the field in the win (31-of-75) and held a 60-52 advantage on the glass against State. The Mountain Lions also held the Yellow Jackets to just 33 percent shooting from the field (30-of-91) and a dismal 9-of-40 showing from 3-point range (22.5 percent).

“Our ladies fought hard to make the game go into overtime,” Marshall said. “We didn’t play our best basketball game today and we still had an opportunity to win. That’s all I can ask for as a head coach.”

The loss marked the fourth time in the last five years that West Virginia State has been eliminated in the MEC quarterfinals. The Yellow Jackets lost in the opening round in 2021.

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