Monday’s game had all of the elements of a storybook ending for senior guard Tanaya Atkinson on senior night at McGonigle Hall. Temple and Memphis played each other closely throughout, but at the end of regulation Temple found itself down by three with 22 seconds remaining.
Junior forward Lena Niang took a 3-pointer and missed. Atkinson pulled down the rebound and sent up an off-balance 3-point shot with five seconds left. Her 15th made three of the season went into the hoop, and the crowd went crazy. The Owls got a stop on the other end to force overtime.
“When we’re down three, the plan wasn’t to give Tanaya the ball,” coach Tonya Cardoza said. “I think we were all sitting there like, ‘Why are you shooting it and not passing it to [Niang],’ but the gods were with her that possession.”
Despite the effort from Atkinson, the Owls (11-18, 3-13 The American) couldn’t pull ahead in overtime and Temple lost its final home game, 83-78.
Before her game-tying 3-pointer, Atkinson tied the game with 52 seconds left in regulation. She stole the ball, made a quick layup, drew contact and converted the and-one to tie the game.
Atkinson finished the game with 26 points and 14 rebounds, both team-highs. Atkinson’s first five points put her past former guard Feyonda Fitzgerald for second place on the program’s all-time scoring list.
Atkinson recorded her 16th double-double of the season and the 36th of her career. Atkinson also tied her season-high for steals with five.
“I feel like I left a nice mark in McGonigle, personally,” Atkinson said. “I feel like I’ve grown. I’ve made some mistakes, and I’ve learned from them.”
By the end of regulation, the Owls had led for more than 34 minutes of the game. Temple shot 56.3 percent in the first quarter and finished the game shooting 42.6 percent.
In overtime, the Owls made only two of their six shots while the Tigers (10-19, 5-11 The American) shot 80 percent and made all three of their 3-point attempts.
Memphis’ starters played the majority of the game, as only one player came off the bench for just four minutes. Senior guard Brea Elmore and freshman forward Alana Davis each had 23 points to lead the Tigers.
“This was a tough loss to swallow,” Cardoza said. “We had opportunities, and we didn’t take advantage of them.”
The Owls turned the ball over 19 times and gave up 19 offensive rebounds. Thanks to the offensive rebounds, Memphis scored 21 second-chance points.
“If you cut that in half, that’s a totally different basketball game,” Cardoza said. “It’s just disappointing that that’s how we had to lose a game, off of offensive rebounds.”
The Owls received offensive contributions from many players. Freshman guard Emani Mayo scored 15 points, including a 3-pointer in overtime. Freshman forward Mia Davis, senior guard Khadijah Berger and graduate student guard Mykia Jones each finished the night with eight points.
The Owls began the night by honoring their three seniors: Atkinson, Berger and Jones.
“The rest of our teammates wanted to win for us,” Berger said. “Even though the outcome didn’t come out how we wanted it, I feel like we still all stuck together.”
The three graduating players had their families at the game to celebrate, which gave them extra motivation to play well. Atkinson had a “football team” show up in support, Berger joked. Atkinson’s family donned shirts with her picture on them to cheer for her.
“I have a lot of family members that got to come up today, so I feel like that was the type of game they needed to see,” Atkinson said. “That was really a sentimental game for me. My last game in McGonigle and for them to be there, it was just everything for me.”
The regular season is now over for the Owls, who will play in The American’s postseason tournament March 3 in Uncasville, Connecticut. Temple, which finished 11th out of 12 teams in the conference, will play against No. 6 Wichita State. The Shockers beat Temple, 88-81, on Feb. 14 in Kansas.
“We’re not playing for anything except pride,” Cardoza said. “The last thing you want to do is go into the tournament and just go through the motions. It’s a basketball game and as a basketball player, no matter what the situation, you always want to compete and try to win basketball games.”