McGee sparks WKU to Sun Belt Conference championship

WKU senior guard Bianca McGee gets a hug from her sister Jonieka Martin after playing her final home game as a Lady Topper, an 80-71 victory over the University of Louisiana Lafayette Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at Diddle Arena in Bowling Green, Ky. Martin traveled from Indianapolis to watch her sisters final game. (Mike Clark/HERALD)

Kyle Williams

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines the term ‘clutch’ as one’s ability to perform well in a critical or important situation of a sports competition — but on Saturday night, the definition was senior guard Bianca McGee.

McGee helped the No. 2-seed Lady Toppers orchestrate an 18-4 run in the final moments of a 61-60 victory over No. 1-seed Arkansas State in the Sun Belt Conference tournament championship game, giving WKU its first Sun Belt crown since 2008. McGee scored all of her 10 points in the final 13 minutes of the contest.

All season, WKU sported a ‘climbing the ladder’ slogan, and according to McGee, the Lady Toppers have exemplified that phrase by winning the program’s 10th conference title.

“It’s surreal,” McGee said. “We talked about it from the very beginning — about winning the championship and going out for Chaney and I in our senior year and doing it for all our supporters and everyone who doubted us. At the beginning of the season our slogan was ‘climbing the ladder’, and we did that.”

McGee netted her first bucket of the game on a layup with 12:24 remaining, bringing the Lady Toppers within 12 points of the Red Wolves.

The senior’s three-pointer with 4:56 left brought WKU within six and after an Arkansas State shot clock violation on the next possession, she drilled a long jumper to cut the lead to four.

With 2:30 left, McGee gave the Lady Toppers their first lead since early in the first half with her second three-pointer of the game.

After missing her first three shots, coach Michelle Clark-Heard told McGee she needed to see one go in, and the senior responded.

“Bianca has done a phenomenal job for this program,” Heard said. “…She missed the shot in the corner and I told her that she had the next one. You’ve got to make it. And she said, ‘Coach I’ll make it. I’m going be be ok.’ The next time down she hit one and I could see it in her eyes and knew she was going to do some good things. I’m super happy for her.”

Arkansas State regained the lead on the following possession by way of Carlisha Wyatt’s layup off the offensive rebound — but redshirt freshman guard Kendall Noble answered back to give the Lady Toppers a 61-60 lead with 1:21 remaining.

With the Lady Toppers still in front with 31 seconds left, Noble missed a jumper, but the Red Wolves failed to convert on the other end, capping an 18-4 game-winning run and giving WKU its 17th NCAA Tournament berth in program history.

Noble, who hit the eventual game-winning bucket in the semifinal game, said McGee was the reason the Lady Toppers won.

“Bianca is clutch,” Noble said. “She can make big shots and she proved it tonight. She made three big jump shots at the end to help us get the lead. It brought our energy up.”

Despite a 14-point second-half deficit, McGee said the outcome was never in doubt.

“There wasn’t much doubt there,” McGee said. “Everyone the entire time, from the very beginning was saying this is our game. From the beginning until today.”