Given all that transpired in 40 minutes of basketball Saturday and the special guest that arrived in the first half, there might not be any better way to describe the Jacksonville State women’s 74-73 victory over Austin Peay.
The Gamecocks (4-15, 1-5 OVC) came from 15 points down in the second half and snapped their nine-game losing streak when freshman Briana Morrow’s desperation 3-pointer beat the buzzer and replay scrutiny to determine whether the shot was launched from beyond the arc.
Oh, did we say live bat flew a couple laps around the floor in the first half, too?
“That was an incredible thing for a very young team who’s had so little confidence in themselves,” said JSU coach Annette Watts, whose team was staring down its longest in-season losing streak in nearly 30 years. “They pulled themselves up by their bootstraps.”
The margin of JSU’s first victory since Dec. 4 was seven-tenths of a second. That’s the amount of time officials put back on the clock after Gamecocks freshman Candace Morton had the presence of mind to call time after getting trapped along the press row sideline.
The clock went from 1.2 to 1.9, which gave Morrow just enough time to get her winning shot away.
Peay played the inbounds tight, but Brittany Manning managed to find Morrow just outside the arc even with the foul line. The freshman took one dribble away from her defender, turned toward the basket and let it fly.
The ball fell through the basket as the horn sounded, sending JSU players to rush the court in celebration.
“(Manning) couldn’t get the ball over, so I just ran and got it,” said Morrow, who was 3 of 13 from behind the arc this season and had never hit a 3-point game-winner before. “Next thing I knew there was one second left. I just turned and threw it … I shot it and it just went in.
“It was amazing. It was a miracle, too. God was with that shot.”
But the victory wasn’t secured until the officials huddled at the monitor to see if it was outside the 3 line. Referee Kyle Labar told the coaches the replay didn’t have a view of it, so the shot had to stand as called. Watts raised her arms triumphantly.
“I knew it was 3, I couldn’t tell if they were going to call a foul with the 3,” Watts said. “I thought that’s what they were questioning, and I thought what does it matter, we won. Then they said they were trying to see if the clock had expired. Any time you’re on the road, I was worried. The kids had played so hard it wouldn’t have been really sad for a technicality to take it away from them.”
The celebration continued in the dressing room.
“It was a great feeling to finally win one on the road, in conference; it was the best feeling,” Morrow said. “There was pride in our team that we finally won on and put it together.”
It was truly ironic that the Gamecocks won it with a 3. They hadn’t hit one in their previous two games and gone 133 minutes of game clock between 3s before Destiny Lane ended the drought early in the second half.
And Austin Peay couldn’t miss. The Lady Governors (5-13, 2-3) were 11 of 27 from beyond the arc — 10 of 20 at one point — and at one point had made more than JSU attempted.
All five JSU starters scored in double figures. Morton had 23 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists in 38 minutes. Morrow finished with 10 points and nine boards. Lane had 14, Danielle Vaughn 11 (with eight rebounds) and Manning had 10.
“That’s the thing we did the best tonight; we came off screens to look to shoot it,” Watts said. “We looked to score tonight. We didn’t look to pass.”
Peay’s Whitney Hanley led all scorers with 32 points.
As much as the game will be remembered for the Gamecocks’ resiliency and the dramatic finish, the bat provided some moments of levity.
It made its appearance with 1:16 left in the first half, with JSU’s Miranda Cantrell at the line and Peay in the midst of an 11-1 run that gave it a 37-24 halftime lead. No doubt, the arena speaker system wreaked havoc on the creature’s sonar.
Some fans in the upper deck captured the animal, but its ultimate fate was never discovered.
“We had them at Davidson all the time,” Watts said. “In these big tall buildings, they get in. We need to keep a bat kind of close by or a tennis racquet. Thank goodness somebody corralled it.”
Al Muskewitz covers Jacksonville State sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.