By Mike Tupa
The Great American Conference — and former Bartlesville High School girls’ basketball legend Hailey Tucker — are about to play their finest hour.
In other words: SOUTHWESTERN OKLAHOMA STATE IS ABOUT TO PLAY FOR THE WOMEN’S BASKETBALL NATIONAL TITLE!!!!!!!
Got the idea?
On Wednesday evening, the Tucker and her SWOSU Lady Dawg teammates dispatched of Indiana (Pa.) University, 66-57, in the NCAA-II Women’s Final 4.
Tucker poured in 11 points, grabbed seven boards and made two steals to contribute to the historic victory.
Bethany Franks fashioned a double-double (14 points, 12 boards) to fuel the Lady Dawgs.
The victory propels SWOSU into Friday’s national final, set for 6 p.m. in Columbus, Ohio.
They will take on No. 5 seed Lubbock Christian (Texas) University for the biggest prize.
The 6-foot-3 Tucker is a 2015 graduate of Bartlesville. She set the career mark for both points and rebounds in Lady Bruin basketball.
She is a four-year full-time starter for SWOSU.
Tucker has been on a tear through the postseason for SWOSU, averaging a double-double and racking up double-digit blocks.
But, she is one of just the powerful cogs for the Lady Dawgs.
Franks, Priddy, Tyra Aska and Taylor Hedrick also have played with giant resolve and robust numbers and contributions.
Franks also is averaging a double-double in the postseason and is the team’s top scorer.
Priddy was named the GAC Player of the Year and is a multi-tool dynamo.
Aska brings muscle, athleticism and explosiveness to the mix and Hedrick is a relentless defender and always a threat to score in double-digits.
Among the key players off the bench have been Maddie Sperle, Taber Beer and Alexa Harvey.
Beer earned a spot in SWOSU lore by burying a last-second three-pointer — literally — to win a hard-fought semifinal in the regional.
The conductor for this wild symphony of success has been veteran head coach Kelsi Musick.
Four and five years ago, when Tucker had her choice of a number of NCAA and NCAA-II offers, she chose SWOSU because of Musick and due to the opportunity to play for a national title.
On Wednesday, that dream materialized in explosive fashion.
SWOSU eked out a one-point halftime lead, 33-32, but trailed at the end of the third period, 49-45.
IUP hit the first bucket of the fourth period to go up, 51-45.
But, SWOSU then finished the game on an incredible 21-6 run.
Tucker ignited the uprising by sinking two free throws with 8:29 left.
Priddy then knocked down treys on back-to-back possessions to push SWOSU into the lead, 53-51.
With 3:56 remaining, Tucker drained a deuce to stretch the Lady Dawg lead to two possessions, 58-53.
A three-pointer with 2:08 left by Beer widened the gap to six points, 61-55.
Harvey drilled two key free throws with 1:46 left to increase the lead to eight, 63-55
After that, it was only a matter of SWOSU riding the wave of momentum to the final buzzer.