COOKEVILLE — It will go down in the books as only an exhibition game, but you will never convince Lee’s Lady Flames or Tennessee Tech’s Golden Eagles that this wasn’t a contest that does not count on the won-loss sheets.
Senior Kellie Cook sank a 3-point shot with only 39 seconds remaining to put the Golden Eagles up 68-64 and clinch the victory for veteran coach Jim Davis’ team. The Lady Flames fought back and cut the margin to 68-66 on two free throws by Hollie German. Tennessee Tech went back up 69-66 with 24 seconds left, forcing Lee coach Marty Rowe to call a quick timeout.
The Lady Flames had one final opportunity to tie the game but German’s 3-point attempt was partially blocked by the rugged Golden Eagle defense. TTU converted a pair of harmless free throws in the final four seconds, giving the Golden Eagles the 71-66 verdict.
“Tennessee Tech is picked to win the Ohio Valley Conference,” noted Rowe. “Our girls battled for 40 minutes, but our inability to get an offensive rebound the entire night really hurt us.” Officially the Lady Flames outrebounded the Golden Eagles 31-28, but they were able to garner only one offensive board. “We were just a step slow getting to the long rebounds,” stressed Rowe. “If we had been able to claim our share of those, the outcome could have been different.”
“We’ve still got some things to clean up but I really like this team,” added Rowe. “We have some players learning new roles and playing teams like UTC and Tennessee Tech will help us when we begin conference play. The up side to this group is really special.”
Lee got out of the gate quickly and owned a 10-3 lead over the stunned Tech club. However, the host team came fighting back and grabbed the lead for the first time at 22-20 with 8:27 remaining in the first half. With Karley Miller and Jenna Adams on the bench with two fouls apiece, the Golden Eagles led 39-32 at the break.
The Lady Flames started the second stanza just like they did the first. Miller was on fire, scoring nine of Lee’s first 10 points and helping give her club a 42-39 lead with 16:41 remaining. From that point on, the hard-fought battle was tied five times before the dramatic shot by Cook ended any hopes of a huge Lee upset.
German paced the Lady Flames with 18 points. Miller finished with 12, while Adams and Julie Zimmerman contributed eight markers apiece. Freshman Melanie Barker came off the bench to tally seven points and Adams led all rebounders with 13.
Lee shot a sizzling 59 percent from the field (24-of-41) and made 6-of-18 3-point attempts. Tennessee Tech fired up 59 field goal attempts and converted 25 (42 percent). A big turning point saw the Golden Eagles connect on 8-of-17 3-pointers.
Tennessee Tech featured a balanced attack. Diamond Henderson came off the bench to score 13 markers. T’Keyah Williams tallied 12 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Jala Harris also had 12 and Cook rounded out the double-figure scoring with 10.
“Lee has a good basketball team,” said Davis after his club survived the scare. “My team is like coaching 16 freshmen. They are all new to me and I’m new to them.”