LEBANON, Tenn - The No. 14 Shawnee State University (Ohio) women's basketball game at No. 5 Cumberland (Tenn.) was an overwhelming pick amongst the fans as the NAIA Game of the Week. Thursday night's Mid-South Conference clash not only met the expectations of what you think an NAIA Game of the Week should look like; it exceeded them as the Bears (20-6, 11-5 MSC) dropped Cumberland (24-2, 15-2 MSC) 61-59 in overtime.
Regulation was definitely a tale of two halves as the Bears led by as many as 17 in the opening 20 minutes and took a 13-point lead, 33-20, into the break. The second half saw the Bulldogs outscore SSU 36-20 over the next 19:57. However, those three seconds would allow enough time for the Bears to answer. Schera Sampson finished with a team-high 19 points and 11 rebounds to record a double-double. None of those points were any bigger than the 3-point shot she hit with 2.5 seconds on the clock during the second half on a pass from Alex Pohl to send the game into overtime.
After each team had controlled one half of play, it was only fitting the NAIA Game of the Week be decided in to overtime. In the extra time, the Bears were down by a single point with just over a minute to play but would score the final three points to pull the upset on the road.
Shawnee State jumped out to a quick start as it just sliced its way into the paint and converted several lay ups. This allowed the Bears to open a 10-2 advantage just under five minutes into the game. On two separate occasions, Cumberland looked as though it may be answering. However, the Bears stopped those brief stints with a pair of 6-0 runs. The second 6-0 was fueled by three lay ups from Pohl, giving her team a 28-11 lead - its biggest of the game - with just over three minutes to go in the opening half.
The Bulldogs' Briannica Tye made her team's only three of the opening half in the closing minutes of the opening 20 minutes as Cumberland trailed by 13 going into the locker rooms. Although it didn't seem like much at the time, the little momentum boost carried into the next half and saw the hosts cut the lead to six, 38-32, just six minutes into the second half. By the time the clock crawled under 12 minutes to play in regulation, Cumberland had cut the deficit to three and set up the showdown for the remainder of the game.
Shawnee State had been leading from the jump, but that would change around the eight-and-a-half minute mark when Tye knocked down a three to give her team its first lead of the night, 44-43. A Bears' free throw would knot the game at 44-all. This would be just the first of four ties in the final eight-plus minutes of the second half. A quick SSU run was answered by Cumberland and the two sides found themselves tied at 50 with just under five minutes left in the second half. A jumper from Desirai Smith that came off of her own steal gave the Bears the 52-50 lead with three minutes to go.
The score would stay that way until there was just over a minute to go when Tacouya Allen knocked down a three. The Bears found themselves down one and compounded matters with a turnover on the ensuing possession. However, the Bulldogs would return the favor as they fumbled the inbounds pass with 33 seconds to play. Pohl would get to the line with 31 seconds to play and tie the game with 1-of-2 before she was whistled for the intentional foul on Cumberland's next possession.
Things began to look bleak when the Bulldogs made both ends of that foul and took a 55-53 lead with 16 seconds to play. The Bears were forced to foul and the Bulldogs shot 1-and-1. They made the first to take a three point lead, 56-53 and when the Bears missed the a potential game-tying three, Cumberland took possession with a three-point lead and went to the line for another 1-and-1.
In a game that saw many momentum twists and turns, this trend was not over as Cumberland completely missed the iron on the front end, giving SSU a chance to set up for another chance at the tie. This time, Pohl connected with Sampson on the long distance pass and Sampson knocked down her only three of the game with 2.5 seconds on the clock to send the game to overtime.
The Bears opened the scoring in the overtime frame but found themselves down by a point after a Tye three with 3:11 left in the game. A Smith free throw would tie the game at 59 and with just 1:19 on the clock, Alannah Sheets came up with a steal and converted the layup by Pohl at the other end to give her team the 61-59 lead. The Bulldogs had two final possession to try and tie. However, they missed and Pohl came down with the offensive rebound on the first. After a Bears turnover, Pohl was again in position as she got a piece of the potential game-tying shot and the Bears prevailed in extra basketball, 61-59.
In addition to Sampson's scoring, Pohl finished with 18 points while Sheets added 10. Tye (14 points) and Jessica Pace (13 points) were the only two Bulldogs to reach double figure scoring totals in the game.
Shawnee State will now travel to the University of the Cumberlands this Saturday for a 2 p.m. game. With the victory, the Bears now find themselves in a three-way tie for second place in the Mid-South Conference with Campbellsville and Georgetown. Just four regular season games remain for each of these three teams before the conference tournament.