By David Coulson. February 28, 2019. BOONE, NC — Nothing came easy for Appalachian State Tuesday night in its Sun Belt Conference women’s basketball encounter with Louisiana-Monroe at the Holmes Convocation Center.
COVER IMAGE: App State guard Pre Stanley (5) dribbles baseline to the basket against Louisiana-Monroe. All photographic images by Bill Barbour for Blowing Rock News. Photo processing and story editing by David Rogers.
But despite the obvious obstacles, the Lady Mountaineers rallied in the second half behind a career-performance from Lainey Gosnell for an important, 56-51 victory.
The sophomore forward fired a career-high 26 points to offset the struggles of team-leading playmaker Madi Story, who was held scoreless in her first game back from a concussion.
“Someone had to step up,” noted Gosnell after the game. “We didn’t know what we could get from her.”
It was a contest that showed how much growth there has been this season for Appalachian (14-12 overall, 8-7 in the SBC). On a night where the Lady Mountaineers could have collapsed behind poor shooting (35.7%) and 15 turnovers, instead they dug in on defense and rebounding, ultimately riding Gosnell’s hot hand to the win.
“This was a gutsy game,” ASU coach Angel Elderkin said. “It felt like a game in March. Survive and advance. Lainey Gosnell put us on her back. The rest of the crew did it defensively.”
Behind the first-half play of talented sophomore guard Arsula Clark, who ripped through 10 of her team-high 16 points on 5-of-10 shooting in the first half, the Warhawks (8-18, 2-13) led by as many as six points before intermission.
This was an opponent that Appalachian had handily defeated, 80-58, earlier this season for a road win, but here they were on their home hardwoods in front of a friendly crowd having to scrap for a Sun Belt win. After App State went 0-of-10 from three-point range to start the contest, Gosnell nailed a trey with six seconds left in the second quarter to send the Lady Mountaineers to the locker room trailing, 27-24.
Still grinding in the third period, another bonus bomb from Tierra Wilson finally gave Appalachian a first lead at 36-34 with 2:49 on the clock.
“Once we got the lead, it gave us some energy,” Elderkin recalled in her post-game press conference.
And defensively, Wilson clamped down on Clark to hold this budding star to just six points in the second half, on 3-of-11 shooting.
“She was posting up everybody in the first half,” Elderkin said of Clark in assessing her early impact. “Tierra did a great job taking that away from her in the second half.”
On an evening where so many of the Lady Mountaineers struggled with ULM’s slow-tempo play, as a team App State found other ways to construct a win.
“Last year, we could have folded,” admitted junior center Bayley Plummer, who had 17 rebounds and played superlative defense with three blocked shots, despite scoring only two points. “Some of us had off-games offensively. Lainey really picked us up.”
The victory kept Appalachian in a three-way tie for fifth place in the Sun Belt, ahead of Saturday’s “Senior Day” celebration for Story and Anna Perez Gomez at 2 p.m. against Louisiana-Lafayette (7-19, 5-10), with three games remaining on the regular-season schedule.