VIDEO: Lady Tops beat Georgetown 57-55 in wild finish Saturday

Some video has finally surfaced from the Western Kentucky women’s basketball program of the Lady Toppers’ wild 57-55 win Saturday over Georgetown in San Juan, Puerto Rico. That video is available above.

WKU trailed Georgetown by 16 in the second half, and by three with 13 seconds left and the Hoyas in possession of the ball. But two Georgetown turnovers and two clutch buckets by WKU completed an improbable rally, and the Lady Tops escaped with a victory in the Puerto Rico Classic.

“It’s the first one like this for me,” WKU coach Michelle Clark-Heard said by phone after the game. “As a head coach, it’s what you dream about – to draw up a play-call in that situation, and your team follow through. I’m so proud of our group. We’ve been in these situations before and come up short.”

The Lady Tops (8-3) never led until junior guard Alexis Govan’s game-winning basket off her own steal with one second left. That followed a tying 3-pointer by senior Bianca McGee with six seconds remaining after Georgetown threw away an inbounds pass while up 55-52.

You can read a full recap of the game here.

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Bowling Green receiver Fant a finalist for Mr. Football award

Bowling Green senior receiver Nacarius Fant

Bowling Green senior receiver Nacarius Fant

Bowling Green senior receiver Nacarius Fant was named one of four finalists this week for the 2013 Kentucky Mr. Football award, which is presented by The Associated Press.

Voting, which is conducted by AP media members, has not concluded. The award is typically given out in late December.

Fant, a 5-foot-11-inch, 175-pound wideout, would be the first Bowling Green player to win the award given to the state’s top senior player. The area’s only previous winner was Warren Central’s Damon Hood in 1990.

Fant finished this season with 83 catches, 1,699 yards and 24 touchdowns, leading the Purples to their third straight undefeated season and Class 5A state title. He played varsity since his freshman year and owns every major receiving record in program history.

He finished with 4,473 career receiving yards (third in state history), 52 touchdowns (tied for fourth) and 227 receptions (tied for fifth).

Fant verbally committed to Western Kentucky in June and can officially sign with the school during the February signing period. He would be the Hilltoppers’ second Mr. Football prospect, following running back Antonio Andrews, who won the honor in 2009 as a quarterback at Fort Campbell High School.

The other finalists for this year’s award are Conner quarterback Drew Barker (a Kentucky early signee), Scott County receiver Scott Daniel (Eastern Kentucky commit) and John Hardin defensive lineman Matt Elam, who’s undecided but has reported Alabama, Kentucky and Notre Dame as his leaders.

“My first goal was always to win a state championship for my team, and I’ve been able to do that,” Fant said Dec. 8 after the Purples’ state championship win at WKU. “Now that the state championship is over, and they get together or whatever, we’ll see how everything goes. Whoever it turns out to be, it’ll be well-deserved.”

Lady Toppers breeze by Jackson State 83-48 at home

The Western Kentucky women’s basketball team got everyone involved Sunday, routing Jackson State 83-48 at E.A. Diddle Arena.

Freshman center Bria Gaines led WKU with 15 points and 12 rebounds off the bench, and junior guard Alexis Govan had 13 points. Junior forward Chastity Gooch recorded a double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds.

Twelve players scored for WKU, which next heads to Puerto Rico, where it first plays Belmont on Friday.

Here are postgame comments from Gaines, redshirt freshman guard Kendall Noble, senior guard Chaney Means and WKU coach Michelle Clark-Heard:

MICHELLE CLARK-HEARD

Getting blowout win: “I was very happy with the way we started out. Just to have the opportunity to jump on a team and work on some different things, I was proud of the team for going through the game plan and working on some things we hadn’t done before. I thought this was a great opportunity for us to try those things.”

Playing different combinations: “It’s one of the things I’m really excited we got a chance to do. Some of the ones who might not get to play a big amount of minutes had the opportunity to play some today. We get to get them in game situations and still be able to teach them, instead of just practice.”

Making the extra pass: “We’ve been working on that a lot. Inserting Bianca into the lineup, you have two of the really good 3-point shooters with her and Micah. Reversing the basketball and getting it to the open person, that comes with us keeping everybody playing together and practice and timing. I was really pleased with how unselfish the team was.”

Play of Bria Gaines: “She needed a breakout game like this. She’s been doing really good in practice and having spurts. She did really well, and I started her at Ball State, and she didn’t play that well. She got quick fouls, so I’m excited for her because you see the potential. Her confidence – you could see it as the game started to go. She was running a little faster and catching passes and being aggressive. I’m excited about this break so we can keep working with her individually.”

Starting Bianca McGee: “Bianca was playing really well off the bench, but there have also been times that we struggled to get off to a good start. Right now, this is kind of the plan we’re going to go with. I think it’ll give us an opportunity to have some consistency with her on the floor, because she does have the ability to score in bunches.”

McClain hitting head in first half, not returning to bench: “They’re concerned that she could possibly have a concussion, so we’re just trying to make sure that she’s going to be OK. I’m hoping everything’s OK.”

CHANEY MEANS

Needing game like this: “We’ve had some close games, and Ball State, of course was kind of a letdown for us. I think having a game like this going into our Puerto Rico tournament was really good.”

What did you all work on over finals week? “Just trying to get better every day and work on what we need to do to get better. We had some things we needed to work through as a team, and I think we’re getting better and learning how to mesh as a team.”

Making all three 3-pointers: “I’ve been struggling. Pretty frustrated, so to have one go in early, I think that gave me the confidence to keep shooting. They gave me the ball in that spot, and I kept on making it.”

BRIA GAINES

Today’s game: “In practice, I’ve been working really hard on my defense. Just trying to be able to be out there and help Chastity and Jalynn out in the post. Today was one of those days.”

Confidence Heard gave her by starting her at Ball State: “She gave me a lot. But after coming out with two early fouls, I still stayed in the game, I cheered my teammates on. I never got down.”

KENDALL NOBLE

Making the extra pass: “We’re always trying to get a better look. The extra pass usually is wide open to your teammate. We were just trying to get the extra pass – maybe, sometimes, one too many because we had a few turnovers. But we did get a lot of assists today.”

Michelle Clark-Heard talks Jackson State, Micah Jones’ progress

We met with WKU women’s basketball coach Michelle Clark-Heard today to discuss Sunday’s home game against Jackson State. Here are her thoughts on the team’s inconsistency, Jackson State and the progression of sophomore point guard Micah Jones:

MICHELLE CLARK-HEARD

Lots of good stretches of basketball and bad stretches of basketball. Looking for consistent performance? “That’s the part we’ve been focusing on as a coaching staff. We were trying to figure out, ‘Where are we at with that? Why do we struggle in the beginning, then we can come back in the second half and do the things we’re doing.’ We’ve been looking at some different things. I was a big proponent of Bianca McGee coming off the bench because she was a big spark off the bench for us, but we’re looking at different lineups so we can make sure we’re making the right adjustments.”

More on consistency: “I want to put 40 minutes together, across the board. Does that mean we’ll go an entire game with turnovers or stuff like that? No. But if we can just keep it to our goals we set, I think we can keep getting better.”

On Jackson State: “Very quick and very athletic. They’re very similar to Troy and how Troy plays. They get up and down the floor. They have guards who can get to the basket. Don’t shoot it as well from the 3 as Troy does, but they’re very athletic.”

Not letting teams force WKU to play too fast: “I want us to get up and down the floor. I want us to score points. But I also want us to be disciplined in a lot of different ways. When you play a team that plays as fast-paced as that and can maybe score off the second or third pass, that makes you speed your game up, too. Sometimes that’ll take away from what we’re trying to do.”

On Micah Jones: “I’m really proud of impressed with the way Micah has come back. I thought that was going to happen, from the time the season ended through the summer time. She was working out every single day, working on her shot, conditioning – everything. I’m happy to see it’s paying off for her. She’s become very confident in running the team.”

More on Jones: “That’s not her personality. She’s not a big talker on the floor. She leads a lot by example. But she’s grown in so many ways, from coming to the university and not knowing she was going to have to play the point, to being our point. I really, truly believe she is our point guard.”

Has it gotten easier to convince Jones to shoot? “I think that’s kind of in her – no, it hasn’t. I don’t know if it will. She shoots it so well, and she doesn’t understand sometimes that she’s a big part of what we’re trying to do, and that I want her to keep shooting it. She’s getting more comfortable with it.”

Purples win third straight Class 5A title: Daily News’ full coverage

Bowling Green players celebrate Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013 after the KHSAA Class 5A State Championship game at Houchens-Smith Stadium in Bowling Green, Ky. Bowling Green won 49-14. (Joshua Lindsey/Daily News)

Bowling Green players celebrate Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013 after the KHSAA Class 5A State Championship game at Houchens-Smith Stadium in Bowling Green, Ky. Bowling Green won 49-14. (Joshua Lindsey/Daily News)

The Bowling Green football team waited an extra day to cement its legacy. What was one more quarter?

The Purples (14-0) spotted Pulaski County 14 points in the first 12-plus minutes of Sunday’s Class 5A state championship, but they followed with seven unanswered touchdowns and rolled to a 49-14 victory and third straight title at Western Kentucky’s Houchens-Smith Stadium.

The championship is Bowling Green’s fourth overall and its 44th straight win dating back to the start of the 2011 season.

“We’ve been through it a lot this year,” said BG senior running back Blake Pillow, who was named the game’s most valuable player. “We just had to come back and make things happen – make big plays. We have a lot of big players to make those things happen.”

The Daily News has plenty of coverage from Sunday’s state final, so I thought I would try to provide links to everything right here. There is more coverage in Monday’s Daily News, and I’ll provide links to those stories once they’re available on the site. Enjoy!

ARTICLES

• That’s three for BG: Purples top Pulaski County 49-14 for third straight Class 5A titleBy Zach Greenwell

• Bowling Green overcomes bigger challenges for satisfying season of perfection, By Micheal Compton

• BG fans enjoy one more game with ‘family,’ By Laurel Wilson

• Preview: Purples hope experience on their side vs. PulaskiBy Zach Greenwell

• Preview: BG seniors leave near-perfect legacyBy Zach Greenwell

PHOTOS

• Gallery: Three in a row, BGHS state football champsPhotos by Joe Imel and Joshua Lindsey

• Gallery: Commonwealth Gridiron Bowl (BG photos as well as other five state finals), By Joe Imel

POSTGAME VIDEO

• Bowling Green coach Kevin Wallace: ‘It’s just kind of surreal’

• BG senior receiver Nacarius Fant, a WKU commit, dons a Hilltopper hat to talk state championship

• Purples senior running back Blake Pillow named state final MVP

• BG senior defensive back Hunter Rogers: ‘We stopped (Pulaski) when we needed to’

• Bowling Green senior running back Blue Tisdale scores three TDs in victory

• Pulaski County coach John Hines says Maroons ‘couldn’t quite hang on’ vs. BG

Lady Tops overcome 22-point deficit but fall 85-77 at Ball State

The Western Kentucky women’s basketball team fell behind by 22 points in the first half Saturday at Ball State, rallied to claim a six-point advantage in the second half, but ultimately fell 85-77 at Worthen Arena in Muncie, Ind.

“We get down 22 on the road, and it’s a battle,” WKU coach Michelle Clark-Heard said by phone. “They shot the ball incredibly well, and one point we were at about 23 percent. We were turning it over some and not making our free throws. But we went in the locker room and regrouped, and we threw some different things at them. But I knew this was a good ball club, so we had to figure out what we were going to do.”

The Lady Toppers (5-3) trailed 38-16 with 39 seconds left in the first half after two free throws by Ball State’s Jill Morrison. The Cardinals led 40-22 at halftime as WKU shot 26.5 percent before the break, but the Lady Tops climbed back with a 39-17 run to tie it at 55-55 on a free throw by redshirt freshman guard Kendall Noble with 10:35 to play.

Senior guard Bianca McGee followed with two straight 3-pointers to give the Lady Tops a 61-55 lead.

But Ball State (3-4) answered with back-to-back 3s by Shelbie Justice and Shelby Merder to get in front 68-66, and WKU never pulled in front again.

“To be down 18 at half and then go up by six said a lot,” Heard said. “They just made some crucial 3s. They made a couple that broke our back.”

Ball State shot 47.8 percent from the field, made 9 of 17 3-pointers and netted 32 of 42 free throws. Morrison led all scorers with 26 points, while Nathalie Fontaine added 23 for the Cardinals.

McGee knocked down five 3-pointers and led WKU with 23 points. Junior guard Alexis Govan had 20 points and a career-high eight assists, and sophomore guard Micah Jones added 15 points.

Govan crossed the 1,000-point career plateau in the loss, making her the first Lady Topper to reach the mark since Amy McNear in 2011.

Junior forward Chastity Gooch recorded a double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds. Noble chipped in seven points and six rebounds in 20 minutes off the bench.

Freshman center Bria Gaines drew her first career starting nod but was limited to six minutes because of foul trouble.

“I’m very proud of our group,” Heard said. “I’m just hurting right now because I wish we could’ve won. This was a moral victory in the second half. I wish we would’ve got the win, but it showed me our resilient my group is and how much they’re growing.”

WKU hosts Jackson State at 2 p.m. Dec. 15 in its last home game until Jan. 8.

South Warren LB/RB Joel Iyiegbuniwe verbally commits to WKU

South Warren senior linebacker/safety Joel Iyiegbuniwe

South Warren senior linebacker/safety Joel Iyiegbuniwe

South Warren senior linebacker/running back Joel Iyiegbuniwe verbally committed to Western Kentucky on Thursday night.

The 6-foot-2-inch, 205-pound prospect – rated a two-star recruit by Rivals and Scout – also had offers from Indiana State and Southern Illinois.

“It feels good to finally commit somewhere and get this thing over with,” Iyiegbuniwe said. “It’s a blessing, and it’s hard work paying off. I can’t wait until I get up there.”

Iyiegbuniwe recorded 23 tackles – including four for loss – two fumble recoveries and an interception returned for a touchdown on defense in four games in 2013, as well as 125 rushing yards and five total offensive scores.

His senior season was cut short while he suffered from rhabdomyolysis, a condition in which muscles release lactic acid into the bloodstream, according to SWHS coach Mark Nelson. The ailment can cause damage to the kidneys if not treated properly.

Iyiegbuniwe has returned to lifting and working out again, he said, although he’s taking it easy while he tries to get his optimum weight back.

The WKU staff showed no hesitations because of his ailment, he said. He was primarily recruited by Tops offensive coordinator Jeff Brohm.

“They were really easy about it,” he said. “They didn’t seem to mind. I was happy to see that. They said, ‘We know what you can do, and we still believe in you.’ That really helped me.”

South Warren’s season ended with an 8-7 loss at Paducah Tilghman in the third round of the Class 3A playoffs.

“It was really frustrating,” Iyiegbuniwe said of missing time. “But I was able to get through it. It was tough at times, but in the end, I’m a Hilltopper, so it all worked out for the best.”

Iyiegbuniwe recorded 64 tackles and three interceptions for South Warren as a junior. He also rushed for 486 yards and two touchdowns and caught 11 passes for 189 yards and two TDs.

He moved from safety to inside linebacker on defense before his senior year to prepare for playing linebacker at the college level.