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Golden Eagle women find fight in tourney loss to St. Mary's


QUEENS, N.Y. -- There comes a point in every team's season where they can either accept their fate or change it. Tech entered the St. John's Chartwell's Holiday Classic as Southern Belles, ready to enter society with white gloves and pristine looks, but these belles of the ball will leave the big city with an edge, some grit and a fierce attitude of fight.

The Golden Eagles lost to St. Mary's College, 73-58, in the consolation game Sunday afternoon but emerge as a united force with a purpose and pride in their ranks. The St. Mary's Gaels entered Sunday's contest in true Irish form: strong, forceful and a belief, a knowledge, that they would walk all over Tennessee Tech. They were bigger, leaner and quicker. It was a true David and Goliath match-up. Head coach Jim Davis knew the Golden Eagles would need to play their best to defeat the Western Conference powerhouse.

From tip-off to the mid-point in the first half it appeared to all that the game was long over as St. Mary's held a 29-5 lead, but that turning point where a team's acceptance changes  to fight kicked in when Quira Demery, Tia Nicholson, Mariah Dean and Christina Caddy joined senior Jala Harris on the court. Point-by-point the Golden Eagles put the Gaels on their heels and shocked Carnesecca Arena. The Golden Eagles went on an 18-8 run to close out the half 37-23.

Coach Davis and his staff went into the locker room searching for a spark. The second half began and Diamond Henderson scored a lay-up and a 3-popinter, lighting up the gym as the Golden Eagles found their spark. Henderson found Jala Harris for a second three and for the first time Tech was within reach, trailing by eight points.

As shots started falling, that edge and grit emerged and Tech's defense made a statement. There was energy in the gym and fans saw a different team on the floor. Rather than backing away from the fight, Harris and Henderson drove into lane, putting up shots with two or three players hanging on each arm. As they drove, they opened up players on the wings and the team's ball movement made Tech unstoppable. In addition, Tech held the Gaels scoreless for four minutes, going on a 9-0 run coming within one point at 45-46. Lashay Davis was on the ground diving after loose balls searching for her teammates, with the rest of the team stepping into the lanes, going push-for-push. 

Tech went point for point with the Gaels until nine minutes and 44 seconds remained in the game. The Golden Eagles got into foul trouble, and found themselves on a scoreless run until 2:33 when a free throw by Henderson ended the draught. Tech was on the bottom end of a 16-point deficit, but finished the game as a respected team.

Leading all scorers was Jala Harris with 20 points, and Henderson added 19. The pair combined for five of the team's nine assists. Davis chipped in with seven points and Molly Heady added three points. T'Keyah Williams, Katherine Barker and Caddy added two points each and Mariah Dean had one point but led Tech with five rebounds.

The Purple and Gold return to Cookeville with a great opportunity to hit the gym.

"For the first time this season, we will have a full week with all of the girls in practice," said Davis. "With their class schedules, we had several girls not able to make practice every day of the week. We now have the ability to really tweak a few things and work on our greatest weakness: rebounding."

The Golden Eagles were again outrebounded by their opponent, 43-35, giving up 14 second chance points.

Tech returns to action Saturday, December 22, as the Golden Eagles travel to Marshall. Tip-off is set for 1 p.m. CT.