Winfrey wins final home game as Racer

Kate Russell/The News Senior Jessica Winfrey looks for an open teammate in a game earlier this season.
Kate Russell/The News Senior Jessica Winfrey looks for an open teammate in a game earlier this season.

Kate Russell/The News
Senior Jessica Winfrey looks for an open teammate in a game earlier this season.

Playing in her final game at the CFSB Center, senior forward Jessica Winfrey helped women’s basketball hold on against Morehead State for an 84-81 win Monday night.

With the Racers holding a two-point lead, Winfrey blocked a potential game-tying layup by Morehead State with 11 seconds remaining in the game.

“It was a great feeling that I can leave my final home game with a great stop and to get the win,” Winfrey said.

Before the game, emotions were high for the Racers. Fatigue from four games in eight days weighed on the team who had been eliminated from postseason play after falling to UT Martin Saturday. In the locker room before the game, Head Coach Rob Cross challenged the team to be like Winfrey.

“One of our keys to victory before the game was to play with the same desire as Jessica Winfrey,” he said.

Junior forward Netanya Jackson said the team agreed with Cross.

“We knew we had to play hard like (Winfrey) does and to go out with a bang,” Jackson said.

The Racers responded to the message, as they shot a season-high 58 percent in the opening half. After trailing early against the Eagles, Murray State used a 10-0 run that gave Murray State a lead.

While Winfrey only played nine minutes in the first half, she was tied for the team lead in scoring with nine points. Along with the hot shooting, the Racers were aggressive and earned 14 trips to the free throw line. At the line, the Racers converted 12 of their opportunities with Winfrey leading the way with five.

As Winfrey battled foul problems in the first half, Jackson checked into the game and provided a spark off the bench. Jackson scored nine points and pulled down six rebounds in the opening half that ended with the Racers leading 43-34.

The Eagles battled back in the second half, as they scored three consecutive 3’s, but Murray State responded.

The Racers pushed their lead to a game-high 14 points with 11 minutes remaining and they seemed to be headed to an easy victory.

Morehead State had other plans, as the Eagles’ aggressive defense sparked a 22-5 run to regain the lead over the Racers.

With Murray State trailing by three points, freshman guard Nikia Edom tied the game with her third 3-pointer of the game.

“I was trying to get the ball in to (Winfrey) and she told me to shoot it,” Edom said. “I was open and knew I could knock down the shot.”

The shot proved to be a game changer as the Racers regained the lead for good a minute later at the free throw line. Murray State pushed its lead to seven points with two minutes remaining before Morehead State gave a final rally.

Morehead State got within two points but it was Winfrey that came through to hold onto the victory on senior day as she recorded the winning block.

“It was a huge play,” Cross said. “It was a senior making a play to win a ballgame.”

Winfrey was one of four Racers to score in double digits and pulled down her career rebound No. 800 during the game, becoming the sixth player to do so in Murray State women’s basketball history.

“Every time I’m out on the floor, I go as hard as I can for my teammates,” Winfrey said. “To know I’ve made it that far and accomplished so much playing just three years makes me very blessed.”

 

Story by Tom Via, staff writer