Harlan County connection helps Tech earn trip to NCAA Tournament


Tennessee Tech photo

Former Harlan all-stater Jordan Brock placed the Tennessee Tech logo into position as the Ohio Valley Conference champions after a win Saturdady over Little Rock in the tournament finals. Maaliya Owens (11), the daughter of former Cumberland standout Monica Owens, also joined in the celebration after she joined the school’s 1,000-point club during the game.

By Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information

EVANSVILLE, Ind. – Tennessee Tech’s season is not over yet – far from it. For the first time in 23 years, the Golden Eagles are heading back to the NCAA Tournament.

With a program as tradition-rich as Tennessee Tech is, it’s been a long wait and for Kim Rosamond, her staff and everyone who wears the Purple and Gold, it’s good to be back.

The Golden Eagles stunned one of the country’s stingiest defenses and tournament No. 1-seed Little Rock with a 54-46 victory in the Ohio Valley Conference championship game at the Ford Center on Saturday with a slow-and-steady effort that broke down the Trojans’ defensive effort.

Tech (22-9) now waits to see where they will be going for the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament after winning its 10th OVC tournament title.

The Tech roster features two players with Harlan County connections. Jordan Brock, a graduate student, led Harlan to 13th Region Tournament titles in 2016 and 2017 while earning all-state honors. Maaliya Owens, who joined the school’s 1,000-point club in the tournament, is the daughter of former Cumberland star Monica Owens, who led Cumberland to a 13th Region title as a senior in 1986.

It was a low-scoring affair. That was to be expected, especially against a Little Rock defense that entered the tournament holding opponents to 50.9 points per game and 46.3 in OVC play. A big part of that was OVC Player of the Year Sali Kourouma, who led the Trojans to an 18-0 record in games she played this season.

Until Saturday. The Golden Eagles were able to take her out of the picture as she only saw 12:06 of court time as she was in foul trouble for most of the contest, drawing her fifth and disqualifying foul with just over three minutes remaining in the game.

Where Little Rock’s game focused on the defense, the Trojans were ninth out of 10 teams on offense, averaging 56.7 points in OVC play despite shooting .410 from the field. Saturday, it was Tech’s defense that was the Trojan horse, holding Little Rock to 46 points on 34 percent shooting.

Tech was able to draw 21 total fouls as Kourouma and Faith Lee both fouled out of the game and the Golden Eagles were able to make it count at the free-throw line, knocking down 14-of-17 attempts at the stripe.

However, Little Rock’s defense did stifle the Golden Eagles, forcing 18 turnovers and 10 steals, but was only able to get 13 points off of the takeaways. With Kourouma out of the way, Tech was able to outscore the Trojans 38-24 in the paint.

The biggest recipient of Tech’s game plan was junior transfer Kiera Hill, who recorded her first Division I double-double with career-highs of 14 points and 10 rebounds. Hill was 6-for-8 from the field and 2-for-2 at the stripe.

Jada Guinn, the OVC Tournament Most Valuable Player, was able to dish the ball inside six times of Tech’s eight assists in the game and the Golden Eagles were in business.

Hill led Tech in scoring, while Guinn also had 12 points and Reghan Grimes chipped in 10. Those three – along with Anna Walker, who had a tournament-best 38 points heading into the championship, took up four of the five all-tournament team spots. Walker ended the game with six points, while Owens had eight.

With her effort, Owens surpassed the 1,000-point mark in her career to become the 35th 1,000-point scorer in Tennessee Tech women’s history.

Little Rock led by six points at the 6:36 mark in the first quarter, but the Golden Eagles went on a 9-0 run to take an 11-8 lead as the first quarter came to a close. The Trojans retook a 12-11 lead only for Owens to counter with a jumper on the other end and Tech was able to climb out to a six-point, 21-15 lead before the intermission.

The Golden Eagles stretched the lead out to 10 midway through the third quarter and even to its largest point at 12 with 94 seconds remaining in the period. Little Rock cut it back to five with 2:21 left in the contest, but Tech got it back to nine points and was able to hold off any rally as time wore down.

Neither Tech or Little Rock hit a 3-point shot in the contest – both going 0-for-6 – but it didn’t matter. With the ability to break through the Trojan defense and get inside, the Golden Eagles finished the game shooting 45.5 percent from the floor and outrebound Little Rock 37-26, including 12 offensive boards that led to 14 points. The Trojans had one more offensive carom, but was only able to convert into nine second-chancers.

Tia Harvey led Little Rock with 13 points and Jayla Brooks had 12. Only seven players total saw action for the Trojans with seven points coming off the bench compared to Tech’s 18.