Golden Suns Win GAC Tournament Title

The championship game of the women’s Great American Conference Tournament came down to the final shot for a second consecutive year. This time, it was Arkansas Tech University’s turn to win.

Harding University’s last-second attempt from 17 feet away on the right wing was too strong and fell to the floor as time expired at Bruin Fieldhouse in Bartlesville, Okla., on Sunday, giving the Golden Suns a 63-62 victory and their third GAC Tournament title in the seven-year history of the event.

With the win, Arkansas Tech (26-3) clinched an automatic berth in the NCAA Division II Tournament and will compete in the NCAA Division II Tournament Central Regional.

Tech is the No. 4 seed in the regional and will face fifth-seeded Northern State University (S.D.) in a first-round game at the Elmen Center on the campus of Augustana University in Sioux Falls, S.D., at 8 p.m. on Friday, March 9. Radio station KCJC 102.3 FM and will provide live coverage of all ATU games in the NCAA Tournament.

The scenario on Sunday in Bartlesville was remarkably similar to the 2017 GAC Tournament final, when a last-second attempt by the Golden Suns, on the same end of the floor and from much the same location, was no good and Harding held on for a 75-73 victory.

“Our defense was outstanding today,” said Dave Wilbers, ATU head coach. “It was just fantastic. Our team kept the course today. We made some adjustments at halftime, and our players did a great job of carrying that out.”

Arkansas Tech committed eight turnovers and forced Harding into 18. The Suns had a 20-7 edge in points off turnovers.

Tech’s Cheyenne North scored 16 points, grabbed eight rebounds, made six assists and blocked nine shots. She was named GAC Tournament most valuable player and was joined on the all-tournament team by fellow Golden Suns Lyrik Williams and Kylie Ladd.

Williams had 12 points and nine rebounds on Sunday, while Jayana Sanders notched 10 points.

Harding made 7-of-8 free throws in the first quarter and led 18-12 after one period. Arkansas Tech reversed that trend by playing the first 8:18 of the second quarter without committing a foul. As a result, the Golden Suns took a 34-32 lead to halftime and never relinquished the advantage.

Tech led 51-47 after three quarters. A North basket with 2:32 left gave the Suns a 63-59 edge. Those turned out to be Tech’s final points of the tournament. Harding pulled within 63-62 on a Sydney Layrock 3-pointer at the 1:52 mark, setting what proved to be the final score.

Layrock paced the Lady Bisons with 21 points. Harding finished its season with an 18-15 overall record.

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