Wonder Boys, Golden Suns Head to GAC Title Game

BARTLESVILLE, Okla. – Willie Kirkland scored a game-high 13 points, while Marshawn Arnold and Jared Williamson both chipped in 10 points as the Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys (18-10) picked up a 56-51 win over Southwestern Oklahoma in the semifinals of the Great American Conference tournament on Saturday in Bartlesville, Okla., while the Arkansas Tech Golden Suns defeated East Central 81-69 to move to the conference finals.

With the win, the Wonder Boys advance to the Great American Conference championship game on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. The Wonder Boys will play against the winner of tonight’s Harding/Ouachita Baptist semifinal.

The Wonder Boys controlled the pace in the early going, opening up an early five-point (13-8) lead over the first 10 minutes of the contest. Southwestern Oklahoma narrowed the gap and reclaimed the lead, taking a 14-13 lead after a 3-pointer by Ryan Donahoe at the 7:19 mark.

As the two teams battled through five ties and six lead changes, the Wonder Boys took a 24-23 lead after a layup by Willie Kirkland, and Arkansas Tech took that lead into the intermission.

The Wonder Boys extended their lead to five (28-23) in the opening minutes of the half, but Southwestern Oklahoma went on a 9-0 run to take a four-point (32-28) lead of their own with 12:39 to play. SWOSU would lead by as many as six (40-34) with 9:13 to play, but Arkansas Tech went on a 11-0 run to reclaim the lead, pushing ahead 45-40 with 4:19 to play.

Arkansas Tech would extend the lead to as many as nine (54-45) in the final minute of the contest.

The Wonder Boys held a 34.6 to 29.4 percent advantage from the free-throw line, while winning the rebounding battle 45-35. Tech won the battle in the paint, outscoring SWOSU 28-10, and led in second-chance points 10-5.

Seniors Rosie Silva and Jessica Weatherford both scored 21 points, Weatherford grabbed eight rebounds while Silva added seven rebounds, seven assists, and three steals, as the Arkansas Tech Golden Suns (22-6) topped East Central 81-69 in the semifinals of the Great American Conference tournament on Saturday in Bartlesville, Okla.

The Golden Suns will face second-seeded Southwestern Oklahoma in the Great American Conference championship game. Tip is scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday.

The two teams traded leads over the opening five minutes of the contest. Arkansas Tech opened the game on an 8-2 run before ECU rallied, taking a 11-10 lead at the 14:13 mark. However, the Golden Suns used a 21-4 run to take a 16-point (31-15) lead with eight minutes to play in the opening half.

Tech extended its lead to 18 (37-19) as Silva hit a pair of free throws with just under six minutes to play in the half, but ECU rallied once more, outscoring Tech 15-6 over the final five minutes to half to narrow the gap to nine (43-34) at halftime.

The Golden Suns raced ahead in the second half, pushing their lead to as many as 17 (59-42) with 14:04 to play, but once again the Lady Tigers clawed back, cutting the Tech lead to four (61-57) with 8:20 to play.

However, Arkansas Tech would outscore ECU 20-12 down the stretch to hold on for the victory and advance to the title game.

Cara Neighbors also scored 10 points in the winning effort, as the Golden Suns held a 37-31 advantage on the rebounding glass. Arkansas Tech shot 54.0 percent from the floor, holding ECU to a 37.1 percent clip. Tech was 23-of-26 from the free-throw line.

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