A double-digit victory on Senior Night for Southeast women's final home game

Carriw Shephard, redshirt senior from South Pemiscot High in Steele, Mo., played her final game at the Show Me Center Thursday.
Southeast Missouri State University

The Southeast Missouri State women's basketball squad clinched the #3 seed in the upcoming Ohio Valley Conference tournament with a statement win Thursday over Eastern Illinois, 72-56.

Southeast (22-6, 14-3 OVC) fell behind at the jump on Senior Night but by not more than three points.

“I think it was a bit of nerves our part,” said fifth-year Southeast coach Rekha Patterson. “But we kept playing with ‘one healthy heartbeat,’ and figured it out.”

Southeast takes command

The Redhawks went on a 13-0 run midway through the opening frame and never trailed again.

“The heart of this team is defense,” said Jessie Harshberger, Southeast co-captain, who played 32 minutes and scored 13 points despite struggling earlier in the season to stay on the court.

The 5-foot-10 senior has seen limited time due to recurring pain and stiffness. The Dodge City, Kansas native was diagnosed last summer with an arthritic condition.

“I felt great tonight,” said Harshberger. “I was so emotional but so happy with all the energy and love in the gym.”

Sky's the limit

“We have not peaked yet,” said fellow Southeast co-captain Carrie Shephard. “Our best basketball is still to come.”

It was the last time the Show Me Center crowd got to see Shephard, a redshirt senior who will graduate with a master’s degree in May.

Shephard dropped 17 points on Eastern Illinois (17-11, 11-5) including a trey – the 81st three-pointer of the campaign, the highest single-season output in her storied Redhawks career.

Love from the crowd

Shephard, 24, smiled when told a fan called “Go, Grandma!” as she nailed a fourth-quarter basket to put the Redhawks up 64-47, their largest lead of the game.

“I know sometimes I behave like I’m 12,” said Southeast’s most diminutive player at 5-foot-4, “but I am the oldest, yes.”

A final bow at home

All five Southeast seniors were saluted following the game: Shephard, Harshberger, Jocelyn Taylor, Denisha Gardener and Iyanna McCurdy.

McCurdy, who graduated in December, has been on the sideline all season for Patterson’s squad due to an Achilles injury.

Southeast’s Tesia Thompson led all scorers with 24 points, including four 3-pointers. She also led the team with eight rebounds.

Southeast was without the services of sophomore guard Taelour Pruitt, who rolled an ankle before the contest.

The Panthers were led by Karle Pace with 16 points. Lariah Washington and Abby Wahl joined her in double figures for EIU, with 13 and 12 points respectively.

What's next

One more regular-season game remains for Southeast – a Sunday contest at OVC co-leader UT-Martin.

Southeast is 10-5 when away from Cape Girardeau in 2019-20.

The Skyhawks rolled over SIU-Edwardsville Thursday, 75-58.

Belmont, the OVC Tournament defending champion, also won – an easy 68-52 victory over Tennessee Tech.

UT-Martin and Belmont thus improve to 15-2 in conference play, each remaining one game ahead of Southeast with just the single contest left before the eight-team league tourney.

Shephard is bold enough to look beyond this weekend to the March 4-7 OVC championship tournament in Evansville, Indiana.

“We have the chance to go deep (in the tourney),” said Shephard, “and we want to take it to the end.”

Eastern Illinois 11 15 15 15 – 56

Southeast 24 8 23 17 – 72

(SOUTHEAST) Tesia Thompson 24, Carrie Shephard 17, Jessie Harshberger 13, LaTrese Saine 6, Jocelyn Taylor 5, Denisha Gardener 2, Roshala Scott 2, Sophie Bussard 2, Celeste Akoro 1. (3-pointers: Thompson 4, Harshberger 2, Shephard. Fouled out: none.)

(EASTERN ILLINOIS) Karle Pace 16, Lariah Washington 13, Abby Wahl 12, Morgan Litwiller 7, Taylor Steele 6, Grace McRae 2. (3-pointers: Steele 2, Litwiller, Pace. Fouled out: Steele.)

Attendance: 745.

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