April 16, 2024

Tigers’ Tenacious Run Ends in a Nail-Biter at AAC Championship

Tigers’ Tenacious Run Ends in a Nail-Biter at AAC Championship

The Memphis Women’s Basketball team fought valiantly but fell just short in the Second Round of the AAC Championship, as their season concluded with a nail-biting 65-63 defeat at the hands of East Carolina.

The Tigers, ending their campaign with a 13-17 record, showed promise early on, racing to a 5-0 lead courtesy of Madison Griggs‘ sharpshooting. The first quarter was a tug-of-war, with East Carolina edging ahead 14-11 as the teams settled into a rhythm.

Memphis roared back in the second, dominating the quarter with Griggs, Kai Carter, and Destyne Jackson fueling a scoring spree that saw them take a 27-20 lead, prompting a tactical pause from East Carolina’s coach Kim McNeill. Their momentum carried through, with Griggs draining her third trey of the match, helping Memphis to a comfortable 34-26 halftime advantage. 

McNeil would have this to say postgame on how Memphis played. 

First of all, I’d like to give praise to Memphis. I thought they played extremely hard. Anytime you play a Memphis team you know it’s going to be a fight. They always battle on the boards, they battle defensively, and they never give up, no matter what the score is.”

However, the Pirates returned from the break with a renewed vigor, plundering a 26-point third quarter and seizing a seven-point lead, their largest of the day, with mere seconds left on the clock. Jackson’s buzzer-beater kept hopes alive as Memphis trailed 52-47 entering the final quarter.

The Tigers clawed back with determination. Alasia Smith’s and-one play momentarily put Memphis ahead with just under five minutes to play. Carter’s basket at the four-minute mark was the last hurrah for Memphis, as East Carolina tightened its defense to keep the Tigers scoreless in the closing moments.

Free throws became the deciding factor as the Pirates sank key shots from the line to first level and then sealed the game, snatching a 65-63 victory from the jaws of defeat. Alex Simmons would praise the Tigers on their fight in the game postgame by having the following opening statement. 

 “It was a hard-fought game by both teams. I thought our team did a great job in the first half of playing disciplined basketball. Not fouling a lot. In the second half, I thought that’s where the game kind of switched on how we were able to play and what we were doing, which caused us to get a little bit undisciplined. We knew we had to take care of the ball, kind of similar to how we did the last timeout against East Carolina. Having 18 turnovers, you know, that’s not really our identity. We had two great looks there at the end. Obviously just couldn’t finish. But, again, a hard-fought game by our team.” 

Griggs led Memphis with 16 points, while teammates Carter, Jackson, and Shelbee Brown all contributed double-digit efforts, showcasing the balanced attack that has been a hallmark of their season. Griggs would have this to say to 4 Star Sports when asked about what it meant to wear “Memphis” on the front of her jersey. 

 “It means everything. I’m born and raised there, so I know the ins and out of it, so I know how the people respond to how we’re doing good in the season or how we’re not. It brings us a lot of confidence seeing that the team is for us, like we’re the city’s team, honestly. They bring so much level of support to everyone and to the team and to the games that we have to put on this jersey with a lot of pride, knowing that we’re playing for something that’s just bigger than us. Even the people who just got here, they learn really quickly that when we put this Memphis jersey on, we’re not just playing for us, we’re playing for the city, everything, and everything around us. So, we all put a lot of pride when we put our jerseys on every day, especially me. 

Coach Simmons would also speak to 4 Star Sports about Griggs and what she meant to the University, program, city, and her personally. 

“ I think Madi’s meant everything, not just to our university and our team, but to our community and to the city of Memphis. Obviously, she’s from there, but her loyalty speaks volumes, in my opinion. To me, I think, because Madi trusted me from the beginning, I think that her teammates also started to trust a little bit more and more and more. We were able to get super close, not just talking about basketball but just talking about life in general. but I definitely, I definitely think this senior class got us going in the right direction.”

Despite the heartbreaking exit, the Tigers’ performance in the second round of the AAC Championship is a testament to their grit and potential. As the curtain falls on their season, Memphis can hold their heads high, with hope for what the next season may bring.

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