Golden Suns take first game of series with Lady Bisons

ATU Athletics 
Daniel Gallegos, Director of Athletic Communications

RUSSELLVILLE – Scheduled to play one another four times in the 2020-21 regular season, the first meeting of the year between the Arkansas Tech and Harding women’s basketball teams on Monday night was nothing short of another classic in the series as the Golden Suns edged the Lady Bisons by a score of 78-76.

In what is the definition of a closely-played back-and-forth game, the score was tied up 13 times, the lead changed hands on 15 separate occasions and neither team led by more than eight points.

The largest lead of the game for the Lady Bisons (0-2, 0-2 GAC) was six points and came to begin the game as Harding opened up the first minute of action on a 6-0 run. The Golden Suns (4-0, 3-0 GAC) eventually knotted the game at six-all at the 7:22 mark on a three-pointer by Kaley Shipman. Jayana Sanders had hit a three of her own about a minute earlier to give the Golden Suns their first points of the game.

With the score tied at nine-all at the 6:15 mark, Ashlei Lopez pushed the Golden Suns ahead on a painted jumper. The Golden Suns would maintain a slim lead of the Lady Bisons the remainder of the first quarter.

Early in the second quarter, Harding took a one-point lead thanks to a split trip to the free throw line by Kennedy Cooper. On the ensuing possession, the Golden Suns regained the lead on a three-pointer by Hannah Villines. That trifecta sparked a 9-0 scoring burst in little over a minute to give the Golden Suns their largest lead of the game, eight points, 29-21, with 7:29 to play in the first half.

At the 3:58 mark of the quarter, the lead was once more eight points for the Golden Suns thanks to a mid-range jumper by Shipman. Over the next two or so minutes, Harding went on a 7-0 run to pull within a point, 35-34, with 1:34 left on the clock.

Sanders answered right back with another three-pointer and the Golden Suns eventually hit the locker room with a two-point lead, 38-36.

The second half was when the game got really close.

In the third quarter alone, the score was tied three times and the lead changed hands 10 times. The last of the lead changes in the third quarter went the way of the Golden Suns as Shipman buried a three-pointer. A pair of free throws in the waning seconds of the period by Harding, however, made it a one-point lead for the Golden Suns heading into the fourth quarter.

The margin between two of the perennial powerhouse women’s basketball programs in the GAC remained razor-thin throughout the fourth quarter. The largest lead for either team in that final period was a mere four points by the Golden Suns at the 8:58 mark, and that margin lasted just a trip back down the court as the Lady Bisons’ Kellie Lampo made a layup on the ensuing possession.

From that point on, the score was tied on seven different occasions and the lead changed hands twice.

The last of those lead changes came at the 3:03 mark on a fastbreak layup by Shipman which broke what was a 69-all tie. Forcing that tie score as three-pointer just seconds earlier by Lopez. Shipman was also fouled on the layup and went on to finish the and-one opportunity.

Twice over the next minute of action, Harding was able to tie the score, but the Golden Suns did not relinquish the lead to the Lady Bisons.

Tied at 74-all with just under a minute to play, Sanders drained a three-pointer.

The final seconds of the game proved to be anxiety-packed as the Golden Suns were able to overcome missing three-of-four free throws in the final 20 seconds of the game. The lone make during that stretch came from the newest newcomer to the team, Trelynn Tyler as she made the first of two on her trip to the charity stripe with just five seconds left.

On her miss of the second free throw, Harding came down with the rebound and got the ball into the front court looking to possibly win the game with a three-pointer, but no shot was able to be had as a pair of Lady Bisons collided with one another at the top of the key, allowing the game clock to expire before a shot could go up.

In the hard-fought win, the Golden Suns shot 43% overall from the floor (26-of-60) and were a season-best 9-of-18 from three-point range. A total of three players scored in double figures for the Golden Suns and were led by 23 points from Jayana Sanders. Kaley Shipman was next with 17 points and Ashlei Lopez rounded out double-figure scoring with 16 points.

The Golden Suns are now preparing to close out their season-long three-game homestand on Thursday night against Southern Arkansas. Tip-off for the game against the Lady Muleriders is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.

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