Tuesday, March 10, 2009

I Got Mentioned on ESPN.com Along with My Team

I passed along the story below to espn.com feature writer Graham Hayes. He posted a story on the heroics and saavy coaching by Kellie Harper. And to my surprise, he refrenced me in the article as well.


No. 3 seed Western Carolina women's basketball captured the 2009 Southern Conference Tournament crown in triple overtime, longest in SoCon Tournament history, 101-87 against No. 4 seed College of Charleston.

The title looked in question numerous times for Western Carolina, including being down by as much as 15 in the second half, but nothing held more doubt then when the Lady Catamounts were down by two points with 1.8 seconds remaining in the first overtime.

College of Charleston had just made a bucket to take the lead at 76 and WCU was preparing to in-bounds the ball under the basket. Kellie [Jolly] Harper called a quick timeout, set up the play and the team went back on the court. Sophomore Emily Clarke ran the baseline and as she did, Cougar forward Brooke Kotcella followed Clarke with the ball. The only thing is, she didn't see senior WCU guard Lauren Powell slip in front of her, gain her position, and force Kotcella to run into her and Powell drew the charge foul.

It was a play run by Dean Smith years ago, it was also a play ran by Head Coach Pat Summitt, in the very gym Harper won the 2009 SoCon title - McKenzie Arena in Chattanooga, when Harper was a player for Tennessee and the Lady Vols were playing in the SEC Tournament. More notable, it was Harper who was asked to execute the play against Auburn (when her future husband Jon Harper was on the bench as a manager for Auburn). The ref didn't call the foul - but this time, with Harper the coach and Powell the player, the play was orchestrated beautifully.

Powell drained the free throws and sent the game into a second OT. And then in the second OT, it was Powell again drawing a foul against Cougar Jade Huges, with 53 seconds left, and AGAIN hit a pair of free throws to tie the game.

It was just a wealth of stories for this team to win the title. The club was 11-11 and on a three-game losing streak. I put in my notes that a third straight 20-win season was improbable. They would have needed to win out and have two wins in the SoCon Tournament just to get to 20. Well, they reeled off 10-straight wins, knocked off the two top teams Chattanooga and Samford on the road to close out the regular season, and then got the two wins in the tourney and a third for good measure and the title, to sit at 21-11.

Senior Brooke Johnson broke the career record for blocks at the tournament, needing seven to capture the record, she got nine in the tournament and now has 130 in her career - in under 70 game played as a Lady Catamount after transferring her sophomore year, sitting out half a year as sophomore and then only playing 11 games as a junior after suffering a knee injury.

Fellow seniors Powell and Kendra Eaton were the first four-year recruits for Harper and now every memeber on the team, in the last four out of five years, has either made it to the finals or won a conference tournament title.

Witnessing this play out was like watching a perfectly scripted film. It ran the gambit of emotions and there were so many storylines. This is why it is called MARCH MADNESS!!!

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