Alexis Govan leads WKU through C-USA tournament

WKU senior guard Alexis Govan (21) shoots a contested jumper during the team’s Conference USA tournament semifinal matchup against Old Dominion University Friday March 13, 2015 at Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Ala. Despite leading by 22 points early in the first half the game became closely contested in the final seconds. WKU would go on to win 61-52 and advance to the Championship game tomorrow Saturday March 14 against Southern Mississippi University. Luke Franke/HERALD

Jonah Phillips

With the Lady Toppers giving up double-digit leads in all three tournament games this past week in Birmingham, Alabama, the team was left begging for a player to take the reins and lead them through stretches of uncertainty. 

Senior Alexis Govan’s efforts in this respect were recognized by many, as the senior was named tournament MVP. 

“It’s whatever,” Govan said of being named the tournament MVP. “I asked my teammates to come out there with me but they didn’t, and I think that says it all. I love my teammates, and they have put me in the position I am in.”

After missing last year’s Sun Belt Conference Tournament with a leg injury, Govan was available and provided that spark of composure and maturity the team was lacking in portions of their journey to the regular and post-season C-USA titles. 

Clark-Heard said she saw a bit of herself in Alexis and the rest of the team when facing this adversity. 

“When you are a family, you figure it out. Everybody steps up at different times and that is what this program has been about since I have been here. I really believe that is why we have been in the positions we have been in,” Clark-Heard said. 

“Through adversity, we found a way. This tournament I saw who I am; I am very passionate. You all see how I coach— I push them all the time. Through these three games, I have seen myself through them, and they say your players are a reflection of you as a coach. That is what happened this weekend along with this season.”

Being the No. 1 seed in the tournament, WKU was able to enjoy a first round bye, but in the Lady Toppers quarterfinal matchup with Charlotte, WKU led by as much as 16 with roughly nine minutes to play, before allowing the 49ers to come back and tie the game at 65 with 2:20 left. 

Govan led the Lady Toppers through this near collapse and ended with a game-high 21 points (11 in the second half). 

The following day, the Lady Toppers found themselves leading by even more, at 22 over Old Dominion, yet still managed to squander the advantage as the Lady Monarchs dominated the second half and tied the game at 48 with again roughly nine minutes left to play.

The teams traded blows, and ODU was even able to build to a five-point lead late in the game, though the Lady Monarchs’ final lead was at 53-51 with 5:14 on the clock before the Lady Toppers took final control.

Govan hit two free throws with 6.8 seconds left to secure the victory, giving the Lady Tops a two-point advantage that they wouldn’t let go of. Govan finished with a team-high 17 points. 

In the championship match, WKU built up to a 14-point lead in the first half and entered the break with a 35-24 advantage over Southern Miss before having that lead completely erased. Govan, again, netting game-winning free throws, gave the Lady Tops the edge in the final seconds of the game. 

“You know the saying ‘big-time players make big-time plays,’ and that’s what she did,” WKU Athletic Director Todd Stewart said.  “She has ice water in her veins, and she wants the ball when the game is on the line,  and she hit the free throws when it all mattered the most.”