Victims of bad luck in the final seconds of its previous two conference tournament losses, the Belmont women couldn’t conjure up enough good vibes on Friday.
Jordyn Luffman’s contested jumper with four seconds left glanced off the backboard and the Bruins lost 61-57 to Tennessee Tech in the semifinals of the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament at Municipal Auditorium.
“I wouldn’t even say it was luck,” third-year coach Brittney Ezell said. “I think it was two really good teams and it was just going to be who was standing at the end. Obviously, I would rather be lucky than good any day.”
Belmont (18-13), in its first year in the OVC, dropped heartbreakers in its last two Atlantic Sun Conference Tournaments. In 2011, the Bruins lost to Stetson in the semifinals on a 55-foot buzzer beater. Last year, their season ended when Jacksonville banked in a 3-pointer for a four-point lead with 29 seconds left.
Belmont never led in the second half Against Tech (19-11). Twice it pulled within one, the second on a Luffman 3-pointer with 1:35 left. After Luffman missed a go-ahead layup on the next possession, Jala Harris pushed the Golden Eagles’ lead back to three with a layup.
The Bruins' last gaps came when, trailing by two, Luffman drove the lane and threw up an off-balanced jumper. Destiny Henderson grabbed the rebound, was immediately fouled and made both free throws with 2.7 seconds left.
Katie Brooks led Belmont with 16 points, Adrienne Tarrence added 12 and Molly Ernst had 10. T’Keyah Williams scored 13 points and grabbed 14 rebounds for Tech, which advances to the finals for the third straight year.
Belmont hopes its season isn’t over. The Bruins are searching for an at-large bid to either the WNIT or Women’s Basketball Invitational.
“It is a process — what we’re doing at Belmont,” Ezell said. “… Yeah, I would love to have some luck. So if you want to catch a rabbit and cut off all four feet, give him to me. But I’ll take the building process and luck will come.”