App State women’s basketball secures top 4 seed in Sun Belt


Travis Holshouser

Junior guard Janay Sanders absorbs contact as she powers her way to the basket against South Alabama Feb. 26, 2022.

James Parker and Ben Gosey

App State women’s basketball split their final home games against Troy and South Alabama, securing the fourth seed in the Sun Belt Tournament. 

The Mountaineers opened their final week of games with an 89-56 loss to the Troy Trojans Feb. 24. 

Before the game, head coach Angel Elderkin was recognized for her 100th win with the program. She reached the centennial mark after a 55-46 win against Louisiana in January. 

The conference-leading Trojans entered Boone on a seven-game win streak and claimed the regular season title with their win Thursday. The Mountaineers left the matchup still fighting for a top four seed in the Sun Belt Tournament.

The Mountaineers and Trojans were close much of the first quarter, trading baskets every possession up the floor. After a pair of Troy threes, the Trojans pulled away, holding a 25-15 lead going into the second quarter. 

The Mountaineers continued to battle in the second quarter with sophomore guard Faith Alston hitting a quick three to open the quarter. The Trojans grew their lead to 13 before a pair of layups by Alston cut Troy’s lead to nine, 42-33 at halftime. 

Coming out of halftime, the Mountaineers’ offense completely stalled out, only scoring 10 points in the quarter and going on a five-minute scoring drought. The Trojans took over, expanding their lead to 20. They ended the third leading 63-43. 

The Trojans continued to pour on points, further growing their lead in the fourth quarter. Troy would lead by as many as 37, scoring late into the game.

The Mountaineer bench celebrates a late bucket after securing the victory against South Alabama Feb. 26, 2022. (Travis Holshouser)

“I want to congratulate Troy on a terrific game tonight,” Elderkin said.  “They came out, took us out of our action, they pressed, they zoned. They threw everything at us. It really just kind of kept us off balance.”

Much of the Mountaineers’ bench got valuable play time before heading to Pensacola for the Sun Belt Tournament starting March 2. 

 “We want to make sure we are getting our rotation set. We are ready to go,” Elderkin said. “Our bench has been solid for us. They continue to give us good minutes.”

App State finished the game with two players in double figures. Alston led the team scoring with 16 on 60% shooting, while senior guard Brooke Bigott finished with 10. 

The Mountaineers secured the fourth seed in the conference tournament with a 72-50 Senior Day win against South Alabama Saturday. They tied a school record of 15 three-pointers made in one game as senior forward Alexia Allesch led the Mountaineers with 24 points and 19 rebounds, both career highs.

“I was glad she was making her shots, and she was hunting her shots,” Elderkin said. “There was a point in the second half where I was like, ‘Wow, she’s a monster right now on the rebounds.’ She had a tremendous game and I’m proud of her.”

To start the game, the Jaguars played touch defense, causing App State to commit seven turnovers in the first quarter. The score was tied 13-13 after the first 10 minutes of action.

The second quarter saw both teams heat up from three-point range as Allesch knocked down four three-pointers in the first half. As both teams continued to make contested shots, the Mountaineers hit back-to-back threes with 25 seconds left in the second quarter to secure a 29-25 lead at halftime.

App State hit the ground running in the third quarter as four different Mountaineers sank a three-pointer in the first four minutes to outscore South Alabama 24-10 in the quarter. The Black and Gold led 53-35 entering the final period.

Senior guard Breanna Locke, who hit two three-pointers in the contest, points out the importance of working on team chemistry.  

“Everything we do helps us build chemistry, and we have faith in each other that whoever shoots it, it’s gonna go in,” Locke said.

App State and South Alabama continued their defensive efforts early into the fourth quarter with neither team going on a scoring run during the first five minutes.

Junior guard Janay Sanders embraces senior forward Michaela Porter after capturing a 72-50 Senior Day victory in the Holmes Center Feb. 26, 2022. (Travis Holshouser)

As App State entered the final five minutes of the game, super senior guard Micheala Porter made a layup and knocked down a three-pointer on consecutive possessions. A 12-0 scoring run for the Mountaineers helped expand their lead to 69-44. They were able to hold the Jaguars to just six points in the final six minutes of the game en route to their 22-point victory.

“At halftime, I told them to get some stops and really run out on transition, and I thought that first little punch that we threw in the second half was really good for us,” Elderkin said.

With the win, the Mountaineers moved to fourth place in the Sun Belt, securing a bye in the conference tournament. 

“If we didn’t have a bye, we would have to practice Monday, leave Tuesday, and then play Wednesday. So it’s really important that we now have a full 48 hours to recover and then start our preparation for the tournament, so that’s the biggest advantage for us,” Elderkin said. 

The Mountaineers will face the winner of University of Louisiana Monroe vs Troy March 4 in the Sun Belt quarterfinals at 2 p.m. ESPN+ will televise the game.