Rodriguez, Harris Spark Lady Lions
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SAGU outboards Texas College during 75-66 win

PLAYER OF THE GAME: Freshman forward Jirah Rodriguez (22) drives for two of her 13 points against Texas College. She also had eight rebounds. Photo by Gina Godding.WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- The outlook looked bleak heading into Saturday afternoon for the women's basketball team from Southwestern Assemblies of God University. The outcome surprised most everyone but the Lady Lions.

SAGU got off to a 6-0 lead they never relinquished, defeating Texas College by a 75-66 count in the Sheaffer Full Life Center. The victory lifted the Lady Lions overall won-lost record to 18-7 and kept them a half-game ahead of Texas Wesleyan (20-4, 12-4). SAGU resides in second place at 13-4 in games played against schools in the Red River Athletic Conference.

The dozen clubs in the league play each other twice, meaning a 22-game schedule. Southwestern has five games remaining; TWU six. The top eight teams qualify for the RRAC tournament, March 3-5.

Bucketeers Boomarang

Coming off a dreadful performance on Monday in a 55-38 loss at LSU-Shreveport, a game in which SAGU shot 23.7% from the floor and were outrebounded 55-28, doubts were everywhere. Even more pressing were health issues. Sierra Hankins (Welch, Ok / Welch HS) had been out a week since suffering a back injury against Wiley College. Gabby Bruner (Peaster, Tx / Peaster HS) and Heather Jefferson (Conroe, Tx / Conroe HS) were banged up and struggling to get through recent games.

Plus, Chelsea Jones (San Antonio, Tx / Cornerstone Christian) was battling a bug that had already ruled her out of the game.

Senior Surprise: Overcoming Kryptonite

During pre-game warm-ups, Hankins was giving it a "go." Then, back from San Antonio arrived Jones, the senior All-American, arrived with plans to play. While the 5'8 forward wore no cape, her presence was as welcome as gusting winds in lifeless sails.

Facing a talented Texas College team very capable of winning when Southwestern was fully healthy, the Lady Lions put forth an effort that made Monday seem like a distant memory. SAGU built a 41-27 by intermission, surpassing their output from Shreveport in just twenty minutes.

First Half:  Jones, Hawkins recoil

PINK PANTHERS: The Lady Lions prior to the Coaches vs. Cancer event that raised funds for cancer research. Photo available at GoddingGallery.SmugMug.com.Jones and Stephanie Hawkins (DeSoto, Tx / DeSoto HS), who endured personal season lows against LSUS, bounced back on Saturday.

Hawkins was especially effective, scoring 17 points on five of nine shooting. She stroked a three-ball, dished out three assists, blocked a shot and made two steals. Hawkeye drove past a screen on the right side and was fouled while making a runner. The ensuing "and one" free throw gave the home team a 9-2 advantage five minutes into the game.

Rachel Harris (Joshua, Tx / Bethesda Christian) drained a triple on a kickout pass from Hankins and when Jefferson assisted on baseline trey by Rodriguez, the lead was extended to 17-6. Later, Jefferson fed both Hawkins and Jones on the perimeter for 3-bombs, and when she added four straight points the Pride led 32-16 at the 4:28 mark. Rodriguez accounted for 11 points by the break.

The Lions maintained control of the lead the remainder of the game, usually in double-digits, and did so by holding their own on the boards. They claimed a 39-31 margin over the Red River's top rebounding team, an expression of the club's recoiling effort after Monday. Texas College had averaged 48 boards per contest, while SAGU was last in the league at 34 rpg.

Second Half revisited

In the second half when the Lady Steers were trying to engineer a comeback, SAGU was dominant, grabbing a 21-13 edge in caroms. While the Horns were making 52% of their shots, their aggressiveness on defense led to a number of fouls. SAGU cashed in, making 19-of-25 from the charity stripe after recess.

The Lions successfully defended forwards Chardonnay Nelson and Ashley Proctor in the low blocks. Proctor, who had 13 points and 10 rebounds in their first meeting, was held scoreless and had four boards. Curbing the Lady Steers interior game opened things up for their guards.

British Thomas rose to the occasion. She found every "nook and cranny" as if the Lions defense were an English muffin. The senior converted 11-of-18 shots and scored a game-high 25. She had 16 in the first half. It was her fourth twenty-point game in her last nine league games.

She recently burned Our Lady of the Lake for 29. Elise Kea (pronounced like key) and Myesha (MY-EE-shah) Carrington combined to sink 10-of-16 tries, accounting for 17 and 11 points respectively.

Head Coach Jennifer Pillich had her squad firing bullets during a 9-0 run to start the second half. When Kea stroked a jumper it drew the Steers to within 41-36 (16:42).

The Lions weathered their run by countering it during an 8-2 spree themselves. A driving layup by Jefferson reestablished Southwestern's lead at 49-38 (14:03). Hankins found Harris, open again beyond the arc, and the third trifecta by the senior sniper bumped the margin to 54-41.

The Steers committed critical fouls against Jones down the stretch that negated some solid play by their backcourt. They traded scores the rest of the way.

SAGU's scoreboard bulge grew to 15 on a fastbreak bucket when Hawkins finished a 2-on-1 advantage, thanks to a dime from Jefferson (65-50, 4:50). Later, Hankins triggered another transition tally for the hosts. Her outlet pass to Jones ended in a three-point play. The Lions led 70-53 and coasted the final 3:01 of the game.

Final Statistical Totes

Jones recorded 18 points by knocking down 11-of-12 free throws. She grabbed four rebounds and had four thefts in 25 minutes. Jones has now reached double-figures in all 25 games this season. Hawkins tossed in 17 points, making 5-of-9 shots.

Rodriguez was chosen the Chicken Express Player of the Game by the crew on the SAGU SPORTS Live broadcast. She was steady throughout, bagging 13 points, two assists and a game-high eight rebounds. It was her first double-digit effort in eight games. She has eight such showings this year.

Harris tossed in nine points, and now has 26 threes for the season. Hankins came off the bench to score six and tied Rodriguez with eight boards. Bruner and Jefferson each accounted for six points, with the latter credited with four assists.

Monday: Home Finale is Senior Swan Song

Southwestern will be back in action on Monday, February 14. Jarvis Christian College (8-12, 4-11 RRAC) comes calling as the 5:30pm opponent. The Lady Lions escaped Hawkins, Texas for a 60-59 win back on January 10.

Head Coach Arlon Beadles has enjoyed four great seasons with the Quad Cats of Harris, Hawkins, Jefferson and Jones, who will make their final home appearance. Following the game, either before the men's game, or at halftime, the foursome will be honored.

Until they arrived on campus, Southwestern had only one winning season in their brief history. They now have four, after going 24-8, 25-8 and 18-7 so far this season.

During their freshman campaign, SAGU went 6-23. Hawkins led the team in scoring (12.5 ppg). Jones led the squad in rebounding (7.6 rpg, 11.5 ppg). Jefferson had the best game (29 pts) and topped the Lady Lions in assists (2.5 apg, 9.3 ppg). Harris scored 6ppg and led the team in three-pointers (35) and free throw percentage (.750).

That core has gone 67-23 since then, twice finishing second in the league, and are currently second again – each time behind Langston University.

After Monday - Remaining Four Games on the Road

SAGU will finish the regular season with four straight road games. They will certainly earn a berth in the RRAC tournament, March 3-5. Should they finish in a tie for second with Wesleyan, the Lady Rams appear to own the tie breaker.

The Lady Lions are 6-1 away from the Sheaffer Center, losing only to LSU-Shreveport. They sport a 7-3 mark at home (Our Lady of the Lake, Langston, Texas Wesleyan).

Making Tracks - The Cats' Road Sked

DATE DAY TIME LOCATION OPPOSITION RECORD (RRAC RECORD) PLACE
Feb 19 Sat 4:00 PM Austin, TX Huston-Tillotson 8-15 (7-9) 8th
Feb 21 Mon 5:30 PM San Antonio, TX Our Lady of the Lake* 16-7 (12-5) 4th
Feb 26 Sat 5:30 PM Langston, OK Langston University 20-4 (15-1) 1st
Feb 28 Mon 5:30 PM Muskogee, OK Bacone College 14-7 (8-7) 6th
*Game will be available by video stream on OLLU TV. Accessible on their website.

 


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