No women’s basketball program in the Great American Conference can match Arkansas Tech University’s track record in the league tournament.
The Golden Suns have a 20-8 all-time record in the GAC Tournament with three championships (2013, 2016, 2018) and four runner-up finishes (2015, 2017, 2019, 2022) under head coach Dave Wilbers. ATU has made 10 consecutive semifinal appearances, and the only other women’s basketball program that has qualified for all 12 GAC Tournaments is Harding University.
When you add their previous success in the Gulf South Conference Tournament, the Golden Suns have reached the championship game of their conference tournament 17 times in 22 appearances since first becoming eligible for NCAA Division II postseason play in 1998.
Arkansas Tech will attempt to add to that conference tournament legacy this weekend when the Golden Suns compete in the 2023 GAC Tournament at FireLake Arena in Shawnee, Okla. Fourth-seeded ATU (14-12) will face No. 5 seed Oklahoma Baptist University (16-12) in a first-round game at noon on Friday, March 3.
Live coverage will be available on KCJC 102.3 FM and www.arkansastechsports.com.
ATU’s women gained some much-needed momentum with a 94-87 home win over Southern Arkansas University in the regular season finale on Saturday. The victory snapped a five-game losing streak and gave the three Golden Suns players honored during senior day ceremonies — Anna Myers, Kaley Shipman and Jalei Oglesby — a win to remember.
Myers, who is from Russellville, has appeared in 68 games for the Golden Suns.
“It has meant so much to me to be a Golden Sun,” said Myers, who is a biology pre-medicine major. “I can’t explain how many amazing girls I’ve met and how much I’ve learned to prepare me for my future. That’s what I’m really thankful for. It would have been so much easier to quit and say my major’s more important, which it is, but it has been an escape to get into the gym, shoot and play basketball.”
A product of Mountain View, Shipman ranks 19th in Golden Suns’ history in career scoring (1,377 points) and she is tied for sixth in program history in career 3-point field goals made (156). Friday’s opening-round game at the GAC Tournament will be Shipman’s 100th in an Arkansas Tech uniform.
Shipman, a three-time All-GAC selection and four-year letter winner, has been a constant for the Golden Suns during a time of change in college athletics and through the disruptions created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Arkansas Tech Golden Suns program and the success that’s always been here kept me going, along with my teammates,” said Shipman. “I have relied on them and my coaches. The championships Coach Wilbers has won and the games he has won…to be among the players who have played for him is a huge honor for me.”
Oglesby came to Arkansas Tech in 2019 from Howe, Oklahoma, where she led her high school team to a state championship her senior year and graduated as the third-leading scorer in the history of Oklahoma high school girls’ basketball.
Not even three knee surgeries during her Arkansas Tech career could derail the J-Train, as they call her back home in Howe. Oglesby returned from the last of those surgeries to average 21 points and 9.2 rebounds per game so far this season for the Golden Suns. She is on pace to become just the sixth Golden Sun to average 20 or more points per game for a season, and she would be just the second (along with Fatima Adams) to accomplish that feat in the last quarter-century.
Oglesby’s career scoring average of 18.2 points per game ranks fourth in ATU history.
Her 2022-23 season has erased the regret of what might have been were it not for the knee injury and replaced it with the fact that she is among the best to ever play for the Golden Suns.
“After getting hurt and having the three surgeries, I really never thought I would get back to playing,” said Oglesby. “For this year to go how it has, I’m beyond blessed. I enjoy every moment, and my goal is to do the best I can.”
Talk to you on the radio.
Tech Tidbits is a column written by Sam Strasner, ATU director of university relations and radio play-by-play voice for ATU football and basketball.