Gosnell shines on Senior Day as App State women’s basketball sweeps Georgia Southern

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Andy McLean

App State women’s basketball players catch their breaths during a timeout against Coastal Carolina Feb. 13 in Boone. Senior forward Lainey Gosnell (pictured at center, looking down) led the Mountaineers to a pair of wins over Georgia Southern in the final series of the regular season this past weekend. She was named Sun Belt Player of the Week on Monday.

Dan Davidson and Connor Davidson

App State women’s basketball swept rival Georgia Southern in its season finale two-game series Feb. 27 and Feb. 28 at the Holmes Convocation Center in Boone. 

“I always want our teams to be peaking at the right time, and to be playing their best brand of basketball, but I’ve got to give a lot of credit to our seniors,” head coach Angel Elderkin said. “When you have seniors that are so impactful to your younger guys, it makes Senior Day so easy because there’s a want to win from our group.”

App State took game one by a convincing 77-66 margin. Four Mountaineers reached double figures while holding the second best-scoring team in the conference 10 below its season average. 

“In the first series they made 20 threes and they made 14 in one game, so that was definitely a point of emphasis for us this week,” Elderkin said. “I thought our activity defensively in the first quarter … was just tremendous.”

The Mountaineers stretched out a 15-point lead midway through the second quarter, but the Eagles quickly fought back. A 13-2 Georgia Southern run to end the half brought the score within four.

“Obviously this was our Pink Game and on our uniforms it says ‘fight,’” Elderkin said. “Our team just continued to fight. They continued to fight for each other.”

“Our team just continued to fight. They continued to fight for each other.””

— Head coach Angel Elderkin

Down by three with 4:25 remaining in the third period, App State went on a 15-2 run of its own. The Mountaineers maintained a double-digit lead for the rest of the game. 

“They know this is a big weekend for our seniors, the last homestand here in Boone, so I really loved our toughness,” Elderkin said.

Seniors Pre Stanley and Lainey Gosnell scored 18 points each while junior Brooke Bigott and senior Michaela Porter added 13 points apiece. Gosnell grabbed 10 boards to earn her sixth double-double of the season. 

“I was just shooting the ball better tonight. My threes were falling,” Gosnell said. “They were down on the screen, so when Pre was able to get downhill, my man was with her, so that was a pretty wide open spot-up three.”

Before the second game, the team honored its five seniors: Stanley, Gosnell, Porter, Maya Calder and Tierra Wilson. The coaching staff also sported t-shirts with each senior on them during the game. All five players started the game.

“We were trying to keep it light, we knew today was going to be an emotional day,” Elderkin said. “I didn’t want to say too much about the seniors, I didn’t want to cry too much. Before the game, I was like, ‘This is a big game, I have to keep my emotions.’”

App State and Georgia Southern traded buckets early on, and finished the first quarter tied up at 14. It wasn’t until the second quarter that the Mountaineers started building a lead and outscored Georgia Southern 26-19 to take a 40-33 lead going into halftime.

In the first half, Georgia Southern had ten second-chance points off ten offensive rebounds. 

“If we’re going to win it in Pensacola … we have got to win those toughness plays,” Elderkin said. “I know in the first half they had two that led to threes, and those are daggers.”

To start the second half, App State committed five fouls in the first 1:30. This put a few players, such as Stanley, in foul trouble. Even with a few players accumulating more fouls, the App State defense stepped up and held Georgia Southern scoreless for the last 2:20 of the third quarter. The team took a 56-48 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

The Mountaineers extended their lead in the fourth quarter and were up 67-54 with 6:31 to play. Then, the Eagles went on a 9-0 run to cut the deficit to four. Toward the end of the game, four Mountaineers had four fouls, including Stanley, Porter, Janay Sanders and Gosnell. The Georgia Southern effort was not enough in the end, and after sinking a few free throws, App State held on to win 81-78.

Stanley scored 16 points and shot nine of ten from the free throw line, Sanders contributed 15 points of her own and Porter added 14. Gosnell finished the game with a team-high 23 points, nine rebounds and played nearly every minute of the game before fouling out with seconds left to play. 

“(Gosnell) was outstanding,” Elderkin said. “We barely took her out because we kept getting in foul trouble, and she did everything. This was one of her best performances in an App State uniform, and this was one of her best weekends in an App State uniform.”

For her performance in both games, Gosnell was named Sun Belt player of the week. She joins Stanley, who received the honor twice this season, as the only Mountaineers named player of the week.

With the two wins, App State finishes the regular season at 13-11 overall and 10-8 in the Sun Belt. The team now shifts its focus to the Sun Belt conference tournament from March 5 to March 8. The Mountaineers earned the No. 3 seed in the east after winning five of their last six games and take on ULM in the first round.

“We have so much basketball left, that’s how I look at it,” Stanley said. “We still didn’t get our championship yet, and that’s what we’re after, that’s what we’re going to get.”