Lady Choctaws Chasing a Birth in the GSC Tournament/by Elliot Reeder
The Mississippi College Lady Choctaw basketball team is in a position that they have not been in some time: in the running for a spot in the Gulf South Conference Tournament. The Lady Choctaws are currently tied for eighth in the conference which is the cut off for the final spot in the tournament. MC has not made the GSC Tournament since their return to Division II in 2014.
Senior guard Zariah Matthews, who has been at MC her entire four-year career and is a three-year starter, said, “It makes us realize that we actually have a chance. It’s my fourth year here, and any other time, we hadn’t had a chance. Having a chance just makes you cherish it and makes you want to play harder and get every win that you can.” Matthews is averaging a career high in points per game at 14.7, which ranks near the top of the conference.
One of the big results for the Lady Choctaws recently was a 69-66 overtime upset of Union in A. E. Wood Coliseum. Union came into the game tied for first place in the conference. Union jumped out to a 15-7 lead at the end of the first quarter as MC started stagnantly on the offensive end. Union pushed their lead to 22-10 early in the second quarter, but then the Lady Choctaws ended the first half on a 17-16 run to cut the Union halftime lead to just one point. Both teams then got hot from deep as they traded three-point baskets as Union’s lead remained one ahead at the end of the third quarter. Union would open the fourth quarter on a 9-0 run to push their lead to 54-44 with seven minutes left in the contest, but the Lady Choctaws roared back from there to tie the game up at 57 with just seconds left on a jumper from Mikeba Jones. That sent the game into OT, where it was MC that started out hot as the Lady Choctaws went on a 7-0 to open up a 64-57 lead. Union fought back to cut the Lady Choctaw lead to 66-64 before sophomore Shanell Kitchens drained the dagger three-pointer with mere seconds left to clinch the massive upset victory for MC.
Kitchens said that there has been a noticeable difference between the team at the beginning of the season and now and that the team has a chip on their shoulder because of low expectations. “Our chemistry has gotten better. We had to come together and get to know each other and make it work,” said Kitchens.
Matthews also added, “As the season has gone on, we have learned how each other plays. We have connected pretty well these last couple of weeks.”
MC’s next home game will be Feb. 13 as they open up a three game homestand with games against Valdosta State (13th), West Florida (15th), and rival Delta State (20th). The GSC tournament begins March 3 if the Lady Choctaws qualify.