Lady Toppers eye potential WNIT berth

WKU head Women’s basketball coach Michelle Clark-Heard and sophomore guard Alexis Govan address the media after their loss to Arkansas Little Rock in the semifinals of the Sun Belt Conference Championship.

Austin Lanter

The Lady Toppers ended their season with a 20-point loss to the Arkansas-Little Rock Sunday in the semifinals of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament. However, coach Michelle Clark-Heard is confident her team will be selected for postseason play.

Heard is hoping for a berth in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament.

“If we’re not in that next 62 (after the NCAA Tournament teams are selected), I don’t know how we couldn’t have proven that,” Heard said. “But you look at our track record and the things we have done, hopefully the selection committee will give us an invite.

“In my eyes and what I’m telling the players is we’re going to the post-season. That’s what I believe.”

Just last season, the Lady Toppers were 9-21 on the season. This year was the opposite for the team with the addition of first-year coach Heard. She was able to lead WKU to a 21-10 overall record and 13-8 in the Sun Belt.

“The growth of these players is incredible,” Heard said. “That’s why today is bittersweet, because of all the hard work and everything they’ve put in. Every day, day-in and day-out buying into what I and my coaches talked with them about and just laying it all on the line.”

Sophomore guard Alexis Govan said she’s excited for the possibility of playing in the postseason. Govan was one of the leaders on this years team and was selected to the all-Sun Belt Conference first team along with sophomore Chastity Gooch.

Govan also scored her 600th point of the season in Sunday’s loss to UALR.

“That’d be exciting,” Govan said about postseason possibilities. “We’ve worked so hard this year and turned a lot of peoples heads. We did things a lot of people didn’t think we could. If we got that (WNIT invite) we’d be ecstatic.”

Teams will be selected to play in the WNIT tournament late on March 18, after the teams for the Women’s NCAA tournament are selected. 64 teams will be in the tournament, 31 from established conferences and 33 at-large teams.

The WNIT will begin this year on March 20. Last year, Oklahoma State won the tournament and was extended an invitation with a overall record of 16-12. The win was a dramatic one for the Cowgirls, whose season was filled with tragedy after losing its coach and three others in a plane crash.

If the team is selected to play in the postseason, Gooch and Heard said that the team will have to compete for 40 full minutes, something they’ve struggled with this season.

“You can bet on, when, and if, we get into the WNIT we will play for 40 minutes, we will play hard, and we will compete,” Heard said. “We will go as far as we can and next year we will be ready to roll and play hard each and every day.”