After a breakout junior season for the Belmont women’s basketball team, Shoreland Lutheran graduate Ellie Harmeyer was commended by the Ohio Valley Conference.

Now, Harmeyer is trying to help the Bruins win their fourth straight OVC Tournament title and earn their fourth consecutive berth to the NCAA Tournament.

On Tuesday, Harmeyer was named first-team All-OVC, one of three Belmont players — including OVC Player of the Year Darby Maggard, a senior point guard — to garner All-Conference honors.

A 6-foot forward, Harmeyer flourished in her first season as a full-time starter.

During the regular season, she ranked in the top five in the OVC in scoring (16.9 points per game) and rebounding (9.1 per game), recorded 12 double-doubles, scored 20 or more points 10 times and shot 48.5 percent from the field.

Harmeyer, who graduated from Shoreland in 2015 and is currently fourth on the all-time high school girls county scoring list, notched a career-high 30 points against OVC rival UT Martin and had a 20-point, 10-rebound performance at then-No. 10 Tennessee this season.

She was a big reason why the Bruins went 23-6 during the regular season to win their third consecutive regular-season OVC title and earn the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament.

Belmont had a scare against eighth-seeded Southeast Missouri in an OVC Tournament quarterfinal Wednesday at the Ford Center in Evansville, Ind.

The Bruins trailed 51-50 after three quarters but outscored Southeast Missouri 24-14 in the fourth for a 74-65 victory.

Harmeyer had another huge game, scoring a game-high 24 points to go with a career-high-tying 14 rebounds. She went 10-of-13 at the free-throw line.

“Those matter,” Harmeyer said of the Bruins’ 19-of-27 performance overall from the charity stripe on the team’s website.

“I know it’s only one point or two points, but if you make your free throws it’s a whole different ball game. We had to clean up the defensive glass, and then with three or two minutes left, they had to foul us, because they had to get the ball back.

“The free throws made a huge difference in this game.”

Belmont moved into the OVC Tournament semifinals against Tennessee Tech at 1 p.m. today, the seventh consecutive year the Bruins have reached the conference tournament semifinals.

According to ESPN Bracketology with Charlie Creme, Belmont is projected to win the OVC and get a No. 12 seed in the NCAA Tournament, which would place the Bruins in the Chicago Regional with a first-round matchup against projected West Coast Conference champion and No. 5 seed Gonzaga.

Harmeyer’s older sister, Hannah, was also a standout at Shoreland and is a reserve senior guard for the Bruins. She scored nine points during the regular season in 42 minutes.

Cooks boosts Spartans

Another former county star, St. Joseph graduate Sidney Cooks, is also trying to help her team advance through a conference tournament and reach the NCAA Tournament.

A 6-4 sophomore forward at Michigan State, Cooks is trying to help the Spartans make a run in the Big Ten Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, which began Wednesday.

A No. 9 seed, Michigan State had a first-round bye and defeated No. 8 seed Northwestern, 68-52, in a second-round game Thursday. In 17 minutes off the bench, Cooks scored nine points on 4-of-8 shooting and added three rebounds, two steals and an assist.

The Spartans (20-10) advanced to face top-seeded Maryland in a quarterfinal at 11 a.m. today. The game will be televised live on Big Ten Network.

Ranked in the AP Top 25 at one point, Michigan State lost five of its last eight regular-season games to finish 9-9 and tied for sixth place in the Big Ten.

Still, in ESPN’s latest Bracketology, the Spartans were projected as a No. 9 seed in the Portland Regional with a first-round NCAA Tournament game against No. 8 seed California.

The Spartans can certainly bolster their resume if they keep advancing in the Big Ten Tournament.

Cooks, a former McDonald’s All-American who graduated from St. Joseph in 2017 and was the county’s all-time leading girls high school scorer until Shoreland’s Chelby Koker passed her this season, made eight starts and played in 26 games for the Spartans during the regular season in her sophomore year.

She ranked fifth on the team with 9.2 points per game and fourth with 4.3 rebounds per game. She also the team in blocks with 27 and was second in 3-point field-goal percentage at 40.7 (22-of-54).

Her high-scoring game this season was a game-high 21-point effort against then-No. 18 Minnesota in an 86-68 MSU victory on Jan. 9 at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, Mich.

Mike Johnson

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