The Northern Kentucky University women’s basketball team celebrated senior night with an overtime victory on Saturday, defeating Jacksonville University 76-71.
Senior center Ellen Holton tied the game for the Norse with seven seconds left in regulation, with Jacksonville missing a go-ahead layup as time expired. Holton finished the game with 16 points.
Freshman Rianna Gayheart, who struggled with foul trouble all night, led the Norse with six points in overtime, finishing with 13 total. Senior forward Tiara Hopper played a big role in overtime as well, finishing the night with 12 points and a career-high 17 rebounds.
Hopper’s presence on the inside was felt all night. The senior credited team chemistry for the close victory.
“We kept our composure, and dug deep,” Hopper said. “We stayed together.”
Head coach Dawn Plitzuweit credited chemistry as well, but also mentioned toughness as a big factor.
“This group has really continued to find a way to win,” she said. “They stayed together and played with a level of toughness and togetherness that has really been their signature as the year’s worn on.”
The victory secured a 12-6 conference record for the Norse, surpassing preseason expectations.
Holton noted struggles early in season and was pleased that the team continued the streak of consecutive winning seasons. The Norse secured their 30th consecutive winning season on Thursday night in a victory over the University of North Florida.
“The beginning of the season didn’t go as planned,” she said. “We pulled it out at the end, and kept the streak alive. In the second half of conference [play] we really clicked.”
Plitzuweit was pleased with the team’s first season of Division I play, finishing with a 15-12 record overall, and was also pleased with how the seniors handled their final season.
“This is a hard transition. Going into their senior year, not only is it a new coaching staff, but a new level of play,” she said. “They’ve really done a tremendous job.”
“To finish their careers the way that they have, really speaks volumes of who they are as people and how tough they are.”