Acree’s spark ignites Skipjacks’ OT win
Chesapeake tops Prairie State to reach Saturday’s 7th-place game
EAST PEORIA, Ill. Chesapeake College point guard Deja Acree was pretty much a non-factor Friday afternoon against Prairie State College.
That is, until overtime, when she turned into the X-Factor.
Acree scored five of her seven points in overtime as the Skipjacks pulled out a 58-55 win to stay alive in the NJCAA Division II women’s basketball championship tournament. Thirteenth-seeded Chesapeake (27-4) used the victory to qualify for Saturday afternoon’s seventh-place game against No. 14 Southeast Community College (23-6).
"I didn’t want to lose," said Acree, who was 1-for-9 from the field with seven turnovers and no assists in regulation before redeeming herself with a clutch overtime performance. "I knew I had to step it up because I wasn’t having a good game."
Acree wasn’t the only overtime heroine for the Skipjacks, who finished the game with only two starters on the court after Acree and Rose Smith fouled out in the extra period.
Reserve Emon Heath sank the first of two foul shots with eight seconds left in overtime to give the Skipjacks a three-point cushion. And fellow reserve Katara Pressley, who hadn’t played since spraining her left ankle on March 1st, came on to finish the game after Smith (eight points, five rebounds) fouled out with 30 seconds remaining in overtime.
"Emon’s free throw helped put us over the hump," said Skipjack guard Shantrel Oliver, who scored 17 points and had a team-high three assists.
"I was just thinking, ’We’re in practice. It’s just like practice,’ " said Heath of how she tried to calm her nerves before her overtime free throws.
"It was just a total team effort," said Chesapeake head coach Damon Nichols. "I looked down at Katara and she was ready to go in and give it a try."
Denver Clyde (team-high 20 points, game-high 13 rebounds) scored Chesapeake’s first 10 points of the second half to help the Skipjacks take a 40-38 lead. Prairie State, however, answered with a 6-0 run that gave the Pioneers a 44-40 advantage with 6:41 left in regulation.
Chesapeake responded with a 7-1 run of its own, taking a 47-45 lead on Oliver’s hoop with 1:04 left in regulation. After Pioneer Alyssa Garcia and Chesapeake’s Smith each split a pair of free throws, Edwards (game-high 21 points) hit her buzzer-beater to send the game into overtime.
Acree’s three-point play put Chesapeake ahead to stay, 51-48, with 3:15 left in the extra period and her final hoop gave Chesapeake a 54-49 cushion with 53 seconds remaining. She finished 2-for-3 from the field with a steal and a turnover in overtime.
The Pioneers twice pulled within two points, the last time on Jacquice Cooper’s basket with eight seconds left. After Heath split her free-throw tries, Edwards got off an unsuccessful 3-point attempt and the Skipjacks had their second national tournament victory.
"The competition here is very tough," said Oliver. "It’s a real accomplishment to win two games here."
Notes: Ashleigh Jones had five points, eight rebounds and two assists for the Skijpacks, and Jen Carr added seven rebounds.
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