TN Sports 360

3-point shooting expected to be Govs’ strength again

Robert Smith/

By Casey Crigger

APSU Athletics Communications

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – Austin Peay enters its sixth season with head coach David Midlick at the helm, having qualified for the OVC Women’s Basketball Championship in each of his first five seasons.

Midlick’s five-straight trips to the OVC Tournament is the second-longest streak by a coach in program history, trailing only Susie Gardner, who led the Governors to the postseason in seven-consecutive seasons from 1997-2003. Last season, Midlick led the Govs to an 18-win regular season, which was the program’s best regular-season win total since the 2003-04 squad won 20 regular-season contests.

Sophomore Ella Sawyer was 2019-20 OVC All-Newcomer selection and is the Govs top returner in scoring (9.5 ppg), assists (80), blocks (11), and minutes (26 mpg). Sawyer saved her best for last a season ago, scoring 21 points against Morehead State in the penultimate game of the regular season, before pouring in a career-high 26 points with six made three pointers in the finale against Murray State.

Last season, the Governors made a program record 267 three pointers, led by junior Maggie Knowles who drilled 58 triples while shooting 43 percent from three-point range. Entering her junior season, Knowles is the Austin Peay career three-point percentage leader, shooting 42.3 percent from downtown in her first two seasons.

This season, the Govs return players who accounted for 92.8 percent (248) of the three pointers from last year’s recording-breaking squad. Sophomore Shay-Lee Kirby made 45 of those three pointers, which was good for the third-best single season by a freshman in Austin Peay history. Senior Tahanee Bennell connected on 33 three pointers and ranked second on the team in assists (64) a year ago; the native of Turners Beach, Tasmania, was a two-time OVC Newcomer of the Week and the FIU Holidy Hoops Showdown Tournament MVP.

Senior Brandi Ferby led the Governors with a 2.1 assists-to-turnover ratio in 2019-20, dishing out 62 assists while only turning the ball over 30 times. Brandi Ferby scored a career-high 20 points, while connecting on four threes, to lead a comeback win against Murray State in the Dunn Center last season. Her twin sister Briannah Ferby leads all returners with 26 games scoring in double figures and three 20-point games in her career.

Senior Myah LeFlore is the Govs’ heart and soul, but spent last season bouncing back from a season-ending injury in 2018-19. LeFlore finally put it all together in the Governors OVC Tournament lose to Belmont, scoring a season-high 14 points and knocking down a pair of triples in the last game of the season. Kelen Kenol is also back for her senior campaign, the Woodbury, Minnesota, native scored a career-high 15 points to lead the Governors to a win on the road at Alabama A&M last season.

Redshirt sophomore D’Shara Booker is Austin Peay’s top returning rebounder this season, having averaged 3.7 boards per game in 2019-20. Junior Kasey Kidwell made 24 starts for the Govs a season ago, she did a little bit of everything, averaging 4.2 points, 2 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1 steal per game.

Among the Governors newcomers, a pair of international players are the firsts from their native countries to play for Austin Peay women’s basketball team. New Mexico Junior College transfer Selina Dockery is a redshirt junior that hails from Helsinki, Finland, while freshman Nina De Leon Negron comes from San Juan, Puerto Rico. Both Dockery and de Leon Negron have represented their home countries on the national level.

The Georgia duo of Jayla Kimbrough and Kemia Ward make up half of the Govs freshman class for the 2020-21 season. Kimbrough helped lead the Panthers of Southwest Dekalb High School to four-straight Region Championships and a runner-up finish in the 5A Georgia High School State Championship. Ward was a two-time GHS 7A State Champion at McEachern High School, before she transferred to Holy Spirit Prep for her senior season and helped lead the Lady Cougars to a Georgia Independent School Association State Championship.

Freshman Ashlynn Freeman is the final piece of the Governors puzzle. The 6-0 forward is a native of Rosharon, Texas, where she was an all-region and All-Greater Houston Third Team selection in her senior season at Manvel High School.

On the bench, the longest tenured assistant coach, Teonna Jewell, is back for her fourth season; while assistant coaches Mark Youngs and Alexis Pace are each back for their third seasons. Amy Elkus will fill the Director of Operations role for the third season and Nieja Crawford will move from the front court to the bench, as the recent Austin Peay graduate slides into the graduate assistant position.

The Governors were picked to finish ninth in the 2020-21 OVC Women’s Basketball Preseason Poll, as selected by the league’s coaches and sports information directors. Austin Peay also had no players selected to the 2020-21 Preseason All-OVC Women’s Basketball Team, with all 11 All-OVC selections returning from 2019-20.

Austin Peay will tip off the 2020-21 women’s basketball season when they travel to North Alabama for a 1 p.m., Nov. 25 matchup with the Lions. The Governors will play their home-opener at 1 p.m., Nov. 28 when they host Trevecca at the Winfield Dunn Center.

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