It was a Story-book ending on Thursday afternoon, as Appalachian State University women's basketball (18-13) senior Madi Story (Maiden, N.C./Bandys) hit the game-winning field goal with 0.1 of a second left to lift the Mountaineers to a thrilling 47-45 victory over Georgia State in the Sun Belt quarterfinals at Lakefront Arena.
The fifth-seeded Mountaineers will now face No. 1 seed Little Rock in the semifinal round tomorrow at 12:30 pm ET. The winner will advance to the Sun Belt Championship on Saturday at 12 p.m. ET.
With three seconds left and Appalachian clinging to a 45-43 lead, Georgia State's Allison Johnson hit a jumper to tie up the game. On the ensuing possession with App taking the ball on the side out of bounds, Ashley Polacek (Ottawa, Canada/UCF) found Story, who then drove left and got the shot off just in time to beat the clock. The refs reviewed the shot and later concluded the senior released the monumental shot in time, sending the Black and Gold to their first conference tournament semifinal since the 2013 SoCon Tournament.
Pre Stanley (Rockledge, Fla./Rockledge) put forth a solid performance with a game-high 15 points on an efficient 7-of-15 shooting from the floor and added six boards. Tierra Wilson (Winston-Salem, N.C./RJ Reynolds) was the second leading scorer with nine points thanks to three trifectas. Polacek and Story each led the team with three assists. Bayley Plummer (Thomasville, N.C./East Davidson) snagged 11 rebounds with five points and three blocks. Plummer is now one of five players with Valorie Whiteside, Anna Freeman, Muriel Higginbotham, and Shannon Thomas to record 900-career rebounds.
Defensively, the Mountaineers showed up once again as they limited Georgia State to just 29.8 percent shooting and 19 percent from beyond the arc. Also, the Apps limited Allison Johnson and Walnatia Wright to 20 points on 8-of-28 shooting from the floor. In the first matchup, the pair went for 42 points and shot 19-for-25.
It was a tight-knit affair with neither team gaining a lead by more than five after the first half. Trailing 13-12 with 2:28 left in the first period, a Story 3-pointer and a free throw from Stanley gave the Mountaineers a 16-13 lead. A pair of Wright free throws gave the Black and Gold a 16-15 edge going into the second period.
App State gained a little separation with a 24-19 lead after a third Wilson trifecta. However, GSU scored the next four points to bring the App lead to within one, 24-23. Stanley made a layup with 1:13 left in the first half to give the Mountaineers a 26-23 lead going into halftime.
The momentum went into Appalachian's favor as it slowly built a 10-point lead, 35-25, with 2:35 left in the third period. App State's defense at one point forced Georgia State to miss 11 straight shots and an 8:52 that started at the 2:49 mark in the second period. Polacek scored five straight points followed by a layup from Maya Calder (Landover, Md./National Christian Academy) that capped off the 7-2 run to give the Apps their largest lead of the game. Georgia State responded with a 7-0 run to finish the quarter, bringing the Apps lead to only three at the end of the third period, 35-32.
It was a game of runs in the final period with App going up by seven, 41-34, followed by GSU's 8-1 run that tied up the game in the final moments before the theatrics that ensued in the final 30 seconds of the game.
App State will now aim for its first conference tournament final appearance since the 2012 SoCon title game. App State and Little Rock met once earlier this season in the Holmes Center, where the Trojans upended the Mountaineers, 74-59.