February 24, 2018

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The University of Tennessee at Martin women’s basketball team pulled out a gutsy performance to close out the regular season and clinch the No. 2 seed in next week’s Ohio Valley Conference Basketball Championship with a 69-68 victory at Southeast Missouri on Saturday afternoon.

The Skyhawks finish the regular season with a 17-13 overall mark while notching a 13-5 mark in conference play, good for a second-place finish in the league standings. With the victory, UT Martin will notch its ninth consecutive year with a top-four finish in the league standings while making its tournament debut on Wednesday, Feb. 28 at 3 p.m. against No. 7 seed Southeast Missouri.  

Sophomore Kendall Spray paced an offensive unit by flirting with a double-double, tallying 24 points and nine rebounds. Freshman Chelsey Perry also notched yet another strong performance, scoring 15 points on the afternoon. While Spray and Perry stole the show, the youthful mixture of the aforementioned duo along with freshman Zaire Hicks and Maddie Waldrop proved invaluable down the stretch to secure the narrow victory.

“I am unbelievable proud of our younger group in how they played today,” UT Martin head coach Kevin McMillan said. “I looked up throughout the contest and the group of Kendall, Zaire, Chelsey and Maddie pushed out a lead in the first and second half. It was great to see that mixture finish the game because they gave us everything they had. Now that we’re moving into tournament play, people will look for excuses like ‘we are so hurt’ but that’s a broken record. So what? Now we have to go win.”

Southeast Missouri (14-16, 9-9 OVC) nearly squeaked out a victory as Tesia Thompson tallied a game-high 25 points and six rebounds. Meanwhile the duo of Ashton Luttrull (13 points) and LaTrese Saine (12 points) also scored in double figures.

The game would start out on a sloppy run with nearly more offensive rebounds in the opening five minutes than points. Play would level off after the media timeout with UT Martin stretching its lead out to eight points late in the quarter. Spray would pace the visitors with 10 points in the opening period, giving the Skyhawks a 16-10 lead heading into the second.

UT Martin would hold a lead as large as 10 points in the second quarter while Southeast Missouri continued to answer every run. The Redhawks trimmed the margin to as close as three points in the quarter, ultimately outscoring the Skyhawks 20-19 in the period. With the corresponding runs, UT Martin took a 35-30 advantage into the halftime break.

The contest would continue to go back-and-forth in the second half. The margin would fluctuate anywhere from two to seven points in the quarter as both teams combined to score 41 points in the period. With the tight play, the Skyhawks would cling to a 55-51 lead after three quarters.

The Redhawks would take their first lead of the contest in the fourth quarter on a layup by Thompson with 3:22 to play. With the team’s first deficit, Spray would answer right back with a jumper to retake a lead which the Skyhawks would not relinquish. While play remained tight down the stretch, Southeast Missouri would miss a potential game-winner at the buzzer as UT Martin pulled out the 69-68 victory.

UT Martin will open the OVC Basketball Championship as the No. 2 seed and will take on No. 7 seed Southeast Missouri on Wednesday, Feb. 28 at 3 p.m. Full opponent details will be released on at the conclusion of the day’s league contests.

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