Patriots advance to the Elite Eight - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Patriots advance to the Elite Eight

UT Tyler Athletics UT Tyler Athletics

SAINT PAUL, Minn. – UT Tyler Athletics Release 

 The UT Tyler Patriots are going to the NCAA Division III Championship Elite 8 for the first time in program history after earning an 81-77 overtime win over No. 2 George Fox on Friday at the the University of St. Thomas’ Schoenecker Arena.

D’Onna Matthews hit a shot with two seconds remaining to force overtime with the game tied at 68 and Alex Kochner would score eight of her 10 points in the extra five minutes to lead the Patriots (30-1) past the previously unbeaten Bruins (29-1). UT Tyler will take on Wartburg (21-7) at 7 p.m. in the fourth round of the tournament after the Knights knocked off St. Thomas by a score of 70-66 in the second sectional game of the night. The Patriot-Knight winner will advance to the NCAA DIII Final Four. 

After two turnovers to start overtime, Kochner led the way with a pair of layups to tie it at 70 and 72 and then drilled a 3-pointer that gave the Patriots a 77-72 lead after Michelle Obach had hit a jumper. The five-point lead would hold with Obach and Re’Elle Miller hitting free throws and the Patriots withstood a challenge one of the top teams in the nation to advance to fourth round of the national tournament.  

“I just love that about our team that we play with poise,” UT Tyler head coach Kendra Hassell said. “They know how to not get too high or too low. We are always mentally tough. At the end of regulation we knew we wanted to take the ball inside and they executed it perfectly and then D’Onna hit the big shot. It takes a lot of maturity to be able to run that play in a stressful situation but our players always respond.”

UT Tyler trailed by as many as six points in the fourth quarter, but would mount a run with Dia Evans starting it with a layup to take the score to 57-53 with 7:17 to play followed by Michelle Obach hitting a layup and free throw and then Matthews a pair of free throws. It was down to two with another Obach layup with 5:35 remaining and tied for the first time in the second half with Matthews making a layup with 4:04 on the clock. Obach would give the Patriots their first lead of the fourth quarter when she stole the ball and went down the court for a layup with 22 seconds remaining for a 66-65 lead.

“The only thought in my head was that we were not losing,” Obach said. “We never get down or hang our heads. Basketball is a game of runs. They took runs at us and we took them on them. We weathered it all by sticking together and playing through.”

George Fox would respond though with Kim Krost drilling a 3-pointer with 10 seconds remaining and forcing the Patriots to make a play to extend their season. After timeout Makenzi May worked the ball inside to Matthews who hit the shot to send the game into overtime.

“I was just thinking about our team and how hard we worked all year,” Matthews said. “It was a close game the whole game, but we just had to push through. We did and it was amazing.”

Matthews recorded her third double-double of the season after leading the Patriots with 23 points and 12 rebounds, while Obach went off for 19 points and six rebounds for the Patriots who were limited to five 3-pointers in the game. Matthews, who is leading UT Tyler with 19.3 points per game in the NCAA tournament, was 9-for-16 from the field in the game and had five offensive rebounds and also three steals.

“D’Onna did a great job of attacking the basket,” Hassell said. “That was our game plan from the start. We knew they had two ‘bigs’ inside and we wanted to go right at them from the beginning. She didn’t shy away from them. She took it hard to the basket and was really productive with it.”

Kochner finished with 10 points and five rebounds after being limited to two points in regulation but came through for the Patriots who were mixed up in their first overtime game of the season.

“She stepped up in the big moment,” said Hassell of Kochner. “She hit two transition layups and the 3 that stretched it out. She was ready to go when we needed her the most.”

May, who had five assists including the big one to Matthews to force overtime, finished the game with six points off two 3-pointers. Her first 3-pointer was the first basket of the game, while Evans and Miler each finished with six points. UT Tyler finished the game with a 48-39 rebounding advantage and shot 47.1 percent from the field while the Bruins were limited to 38.4 percent shooting and committed 14 turnovers. The Bruins pressed throughout the night, but the Patriot only had 16 turnovers and owned an 18-16 points off turnovers advantage. Always fighting, the Patriots also had a 21-14 scoring advantage on second-chance baskets and a 44-34 scoring margin in the paint.

“I was just really proud of our player’s effort,” Hassell said. “We bounced back from adversity time and time again tonight. We hit some shots and made some stops that helped us get some momentum back. George Fox is a great team and it is very difficult to keep them from scoring. We had to switch up our man and zone quite a bit and make them take contested shots. I’m just really proud of our players.”

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