New location. Same result.
Arkansas Tech University is in the women’s basketball championship game at the Great American Conference Tournament.
The Golden Suns (16-12) will face nationally 16th-ranked Southwestern Oklahoma State University (28-4) with the title and an automatic berth in the NCAA Divison II Tournament on the line at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, March 6.
It will be Arkansas Tech’s seventh appearance in the women’s GAC Tournament final in the 11-year history of the event. The previous six were played at Bruin Fieldhouse in Bartlesville, Okla. This year, the tournament moved to FireLake Arena in Shawnee, Okla.
The new venue suits the Golden Suns, who defeated Southern Nazarene University 67-65 on a layup by Alex Hill with 0.6 seconds remaining and Harding University 68-65 to reach the GAC Tournament championship game for the first time since 2019.
“I think it was just a lot of guts,” said Dave Wilbers, ATU head women’s basketball coach, when asked what made the difference in the victory over Harding on Saturday night. “Our defense was really good, we hit some free throws and we executed our plays. It was a great team effort all around.”
Finishing the deal on Sunday will require another great team effort.
The SWOSU Lady Bulldogs, regular season GAC champions, have won 13 consecutive games. Their average margin of victory during the winning streak has been 20.9 points.
The Lady Bulldogs have yet to be challenged this weekend. They defeated Southeastern Oklahoma State 79-63 on Thursday and Henderson State 89-73 on Saturday to earn the sixth GAC Tournament championship game appearance in SWOSU women’s basketball history.
Arkansas Tech and Southwestern Oklahoma State are tied for the GAC record for postseason women’s basketball tournament titles won. The Golden Suns took the championship trophy home in 2013, 2016 and 2018. The GAC Tournament championship trophies from 2012, 2014 and 2019 reside in the Lady Bulldogs’ trophy case in Weatherford.
That tie will be broken on Sunday.
From an Arkansas Tech perspective, it won’t be easy. A great many observers probably believe they already know the outcome. They might be right. But as long as there is life there is hope. And the Golden Suns are still alive.
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.