Golden Suns End Season in Elite Eight

NCAA Division II player of the year Johannah Leedham scored 34 points to lead the Franklin Pierce Ravens to a 77-62 win over the Arkansas Tech Golden Suns in the quarterfinals of the women’s NCAA Elite Eight at the St. Joseph Civic Arena in St. Joseph, Mo., on Tuesday.

Leedham was 10-of-18 from the field, including 6-of-12 from 3-point range. She also had nine rebounds, six assists and four steals as the defending national runner-up Ravens (32-1) advanced to the NCAA Final Four for a second consecutive year.

The loss ended Arkansas Tech’s season with an overall record of 31-3. The Golden Suns recorded their highest win total since 1998-99 and won the Gulf South Conference West Division title, the GSC Tournament championship and the NCAA Division II South Region title.

Franklin Pierce took control on Tuesday with a 21-5 run over a span of 7:06 late in the first half. The Ravens went to halftime with a 44-29 lead.

The Suns got within 10 points of the lead on two occasions early in the second half, but both times Leedham responded with a basket to stop Tech’s momentum.

The Golden Suns’ final stand started with an Ashley Chisum 3-pointer. Her trey with 14:00 left sparked a 16-5 Tech surge that cut Franklin Pierce’s lead to 64-53 with 7:11 to go.

But as she had been all day, Leedham was there to push the Golden Suns back. Her 3-pointer with 6:01 remaining stopped Tech’s comeback bid and proved to be the final dagger.

Jewel White added 17 points and 14 rebounds for the Ravens, while Marielle Giroud had 12 points and 13 rebounds. Franklin Pierce finished with a 44-31 rebounding edge and a 16-4 advantage in second-chance points.

Natalia Santos and Chisum had 17 points apiece for Arkansas Tech.

Chisum (photographed) was 6-of-11 from the field, including 3-of-5 from 3-point range, while recording a season-high scoring total that was just two points shy of her career high.

The senior from Bryant, who finishes her career third in Tech history in assists and ninth in Tech history in steals, added three assists and four steals in her final collegiate game.

Jessica Weatherford had 12 points, all of which came in the second half, and nine rebounds for the Golden Suns.

Chisum and Anna Baran were the only seniors on Arkansas Tech’s 2009-10 women’s basketball roster. The Suns are eligible to return 93.4 percent of their scoring from this season in 2010-11.

The loss ended one of the most successful basketball seasons in Arkansas Tech history. The Golden Suns and the Wonder Boys had a combined record of 61-5 in 2009-10, the best combined record for the men’s and women’s teams at any NCAA Division II institution this season.