BOONE — Appalachian State women’s basketball coach Angel Elderkin made a point to have her Mountaineers practice cutting down the nets, just in case they won a championship of some kind.
She got the idea when Appalachian State lost to Little Rock in the 2018 Sun Belt Tournament. She had her players watch the Trojans cut down the nets after beating the Mountaineers to win the regular-season conference championship.
When Appalachian State beat North Texas in the finals of the Women’s Basketball Invitational 76-59 in front of a Holmes Center crowd of 1,823 fans who rose to their feet when the clock ticked down, the practice finally paid off.
When it came time to cut down the nets, the Mountaineers (22-14) were ready.
“It seemed really silly, but it was a vision thing,” App State center Bayley Plummer said. “We can see these nets in our hands and we could actually do it, it was really good.”
“You don’t cry because it’s over. You cry because it happens, and it was the most amazing feeling I was able to have,” Elderkin said about the win. “I love this team and I love this staff so much. To go up there at the end, and you’ve heard this story, I made them cut down the net all preseason and postseason. I made them do so many times to prove we could do it and we did it.”
App State had four of its five starters score double figures, including 21 points from point guard Ashley Polacek on 9-of-12 shooting. Fifth year senior Madi Story. Missed all of the 2017-18 season with a knee injury.
Story came back for a second chance at a senior season and scored 17 points in her final collegiate game. After being called for a first quarter foul, which earned her a trip to the bench to avoid getting a second foul, she returned to make 7-of-11 from the field and pull down five rebounds.
“I’m officially retired,” Story said. “I’m so blessed. Obviously I couldn’t do it without my team and my coaches. To just go out like we did on our home court and win by 20 and a championship, it’s incredible.”
App State point guard Pre Stanley, the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, finished with 19 points. Lainey Gosnell added 10 points as the Mountaineers scored just one point, scored by Emma Newton in the final minute of the game, off the bench.
Stanley twisted her ankle during the game, but played through the injury.
“I twisted my ankle, I don’t know how,” said Stanley, who was hoisted into the air when it was announced she was the tournament’s MVP. “The only thing I could think about was the team, so I had to fight through that. This is our last game and our last 40 minutes and I could deal with the pain afterwards.”
Plummer scored eight points, but pulled down 22 rebounds and helped the Mountaineers dominate North Texas (18-16) in the third quarter by allowing the Mean Green to just two offensive rebounds on 12 missed shots.
“You had 22 rebounds?” Story asked Plummer, who averaged 19 rebounds per WBI tournament game. Both players were named to the all-tournament team.
North Texas shot out to a 22-15 lead by the end of the first quarter when Plummer and Story spent time on the bench for picking up quick fouls. Appalachian State rallied in the second quarter to force a 32-32 halftime tie.
The Mountaineers blitzed North Texas in the third quarter with a 13-4 run that was capped by a Stanley basket and a 45-36 lead. App State took a 58-44 lead into the fourth quarter and buried the Mean Green with an 11-3 run to claim a 69-47 lead.
Appalachian State continued its dominance on the defensive boards by not allowing North Texas an offensive rebound in the fourth quarter.
“We weren’t as effective on the offensive glass and I do think that hurt us,” North Texas coach Jalie Mitchell said. “We needed to win the possession game and we didn’t get enough stops on the other end.”
North Texas got 22 points from Terriell Bradley. She was the only North Texas player to score in double figures.
North Texas, which shot 47.4 percent from the field in the first quarter, did not shoot better than 26.7 percent from the field in any of the next three quarters. The Mean Green finished making 32.8 percent from the field for the game.
Appalachian State 76, North Texas 59
North Texas 59 (18-16)
Townley 3-7 0-0 6, George 3-9 0-0 6, Goodhart 3-9 0-0 8, Smith 1-5 2-2 5, Bradley 7-20 4-4 22, Owens 1-4 0-0 2, Henderson 0-0 2-2 2, Shepherd 0-2 0-0 0, Shillow 0-0 0-0 0, Terrell 0-4 1-2 1, Mims 3-4 0-0 7. Totals 21-64 9-10 59.
Appalachian State 76 (22-14)
Gosnell 4-7 1-2 10, Plummer 3-6 2-3 6, Stanley 7-17 4-4 19, Polacek 9-12 1-1 21, Story 7-11 3-4 17, Calder 0-0 0-0 0, Gilbert 0-0 0-0 0, Wilson 0-3 0-2 0, Mathews 0-1 0-0 0, Hampton 0-0 00 0, Newton 0-1 1-2 1, Bigott 0-0 0-0 0, Jeffery 0-1 0-0 0, McDonald 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 30-61 12-20 76.
North Texas 22 10 12 15 — 59
Appalachian State 15 17 26 18 —76
3-point goals—North Texas 8-19 (Bradley 4-7, Goodhart 2-3, Mims 1-1, Smith 1-2, Shepherd 0-2, Owens 0-3), App State 4-12 Polacek 2-2, Stanley 1-3, Gosnell 1-4, Newton 0–1, Jeffery 0-1). Rebounds—North Texas 32 (George 8), App State 47 (Plummer 22). Assists—North Texas 6, App State 6. Total fouls—North Texas 14, App State 11. Fouled out—None. Technical fouls—None. Att.—1,823.