BOONE — Madi Story became the driving force on Saturday night.
Story, an Appalachian State senior guard, scored a game-high 19 points, but one play became the fulcrum for the night’s emotional shift. With seven minutes left against Campbell, Story hit a layup to give Appalachian a seven-point lead. She ran back on defense, picking up Campbell’s Hayley Barber.
Story knocked the ball loose, dove to the floor and corralled possession long enough for an App State timeout. The Holmes Convocation Center roared, and Coach Angel Elderkin of the Mountaineers met Story on the court for an emphatic high-five and hug.
“The one play when Madi got the stop and then she got it, she was pumped,” Elderkin said. “And right there it was like ‘Madi, get us to a championship,’ and she was just all smiles.”
Story scored 13 of her points in the second half of a 70-57 win against Campbell. The victory pushes App State (21-14) into the WBI Tournament finals, where the team will face North Texas on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. The Mountaineers won the inaugural WBI Tournament in 2010.
After the game, Elderkin pointed out that even though Story worked every season to get better, she rarely got to experience the success she deserved. Story tore an ACL last year, missing all of the 2017-18 season. Before that, the most victories she’d ever seen was 14.
Story’s play on Saturday guaranteed that the final game of her college career would be in Boone for a championship. For Story, that’s all she can ask for.
“I mean it’s crazy. A lot of people talked to me about it,” Story said. “Things happen for a reason. I tore my ACL, and it was awful and I thought the world was going to end.
“But I’m so glad I’m here with this team, and you know, I just didn’t think — it wasn’t even in my thought process that my last game ever would be here playing for a championship. I’m just really blessed.”
At its lowest point in the fourth quarter, App State had only a three-point lead. The Mountaineers were looking shaky because of a struggle to get the ball inside. But from there, Story and Bayley Plummer shouldered through for App State. They combined to score App State’s first seven field goals of the final quarter, a run that pushed the Mountaineers’ lead to 11.
Plummer finished with 20 rebounds, setting the single-season rebounding record for App State (a total of 441). For her, getting App State’s 21st win provided only more validation.
“I think that it’s really good to see for our program,” Plummer said. “We’ve been through a lot over the last few years. To be able to put it together at the right time in the tournament, just to even get to the championship, is an honor. We can’t wait for another 40 minutes with all these fans and the community.”
Community was a heavy emphasis for all who talked with reporters post game. There were 1,293 in attendance for App State’s win. They saw Appalachian’s starters — Story, Plummer, Lainey Gosnell, Pre Stanley and Ashley Polacek — each play more than 32 minutes and score 66 of the team’s total points.
Saturday night, Elderkin said, is an example of the depth the Mountaineers have. She hopes that the Mountaineers can piece together one more winning performance before the season ends.
“It’s really special,” Elderkin said. “I’ve never coached in this arena with that many people, and today was a really special opportunity for our program.”