Langston wins 5th RRAC title in a row
LANGSTON, Oklahoma -- Paybacks are seldom fun. Unless you're the one getting even.
The NAIA's No. 11 ranked Langston University (24-5, 19-2 in RRAC) routed Southwestern Assemblies of God University (19-10, 14-7) on Saturday evening, 76-36, for their 18th win in 19 tries. More importantly it clinched their fifth consecutive regular season championship in the Red River Athletic Conference.
Their nemesis in recent seasons, the SAGU Lady Lions, were the focus on this night. The only team in the league to defeat them on their home court, the C.F. Gayles Fieldhouse, during the past five years, Southwestern was a marked team. They laid a solid, 71-61 beatdown on Langston last season in a game wasn't nearly that close. A reprisal was on the menu, and the hosts never eased up. SAGU has split with the LU Lady Lions in each of the past two years.
Earlier in the season the Lady Langstons escaped with a 61-55 win at the Sheaffer Center. At the time Southwestern was healthy and had just come off a record-setting 10-game winning streak. Since then they have been inconsistent on offense and have a plethora of injured or sick players who are far from 100%.
It wouldn't have mattered much on this night. Langston was back in their groove after being on the receiving end of an 89-64 trouncing at the hands of Texas Wesleyan University (25-4, 17-4) a week ago in Ft. Worth. Head Coach Jerome Willis had his pride of Lions setting the tempo with a defense that frustrated SAGU into shooting only 19% for the game. Southwestern made just six baskets in each half, and their normally reliable three-point shooters missed 15-of-18 beyond the arc.
The team that had once led the RRAC in free throw shooting had another lackluster effort on the foul line, making just nine of 17. They have made only 56% in their last four games (54-of-95). After scoring 40+ points in 143 straight games, the Lady Lions have purred of late, being held to 38 at LSU-Shreveport on February 7, and to 36 on Saturday.
First Half Recap
Southwestern kept things close through the early stages, trailing 13-9, after Chelsea Jones (San Antonio, Tx / Cornerstone Christian) converted a turnover into a three-point play. Sierra Hankins (Welch, Ok / Welch HS) netted the team's first three points before Stephanie Hawkins (DeSoto, Tx / DeSoto HS) drained a 3-ball.
Jirah Rodriguez (Georgetown, Tx / Georgetown HS) gathered in a Jones miss from the perimeter and spotted Rachel Harris (Joshua, Tx / Bethesda Christian) for a jumper that had Team Purp within 15-11 with 13:52 left in the half.
That's when Langston went on a 12-1 run for a 29-12 stranglehold (8:11 to play) that would never be seriously challenged the rest of the evening. Stephanie Madden and Ashlea Gray, the Langston inside-outside combination, each scored four points to start the rally, before Deanne Adger and Shantoya Fisher stroked threes to break the game wide open.
Southwestern made only two baskets over the final eight minutes, a jumper by Rodriguez and a Hawkins layup after a steal by Hankins. LU led at intermission, 34-19.
Madden's seven boards keyed Langston's dominance in the paint, where they held a 24-13 upper hand in rebounds at the break. Heather Jefferson (Conroe, Tx / Conroe HS), a senior guard, had six of her team-high seven caroms in the first half.
The scoring margin could've been worse hadn't SAGU forced 11 turnovers in the opening half. Missing seven of 13 free throws was no help.
Second Half Summary
The second half was forgettable. Langston rolled, outscoring SAGU 42-17 after recess. Their strength is depth and their superior advantage inside. Southwestern offered little resistance in the paint.
Langston outrebounded the Lions by a whopping 43-16 in the final twenty minutes. It led to them owning a 32-10 edge in points in the paint, not counting a 27-4 margin in second-chance points, the latter the result of 19 offensive rebounds.
Madden, their 6-foot-1 senior center, tossed in 21 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in only twenty minutes of playing time. She leads the RRAC in scoring with 18.3 points per game. She has reached double-figures in 25 of 28 games this year. The favorite for MVP of the RRAC is second in the league in rebounds, hauling in 11.9 per game.
Gray added 14 points in 23 minutes while senior forward Sharnelia Johnson netted 12 points and a dozen boards in 22 minutes. Coach Willis was able to play nine players about 20 minutes apiece.
SAGU Cat Stats
SAGU was led in scoring by Rodriguez, the freshman forward. She came off the bench to account for 10 points on 4-of-13 shooting. She made a pair of triples, reeled in six boards and was credited for two steals.
Hawkins and Hankins both added seven points. The Hawk struggled to get her rhythm; making 3-of-15 tries, including one out of four attempts beyond the arc. Hankins was three-of-six and had four rebounds.
Jones was one-of-nine for six points, ending her string of consecutive double-digit games at 31 games, dating back to last season. She has reached 10 or more points in 42 of her last 44 games, including all 28 this season, until Saturday. She had no rebounds.
Two SAGU starters, Gabby Bruner (Peaster, Tx / Peaster HS) and Jefferson, failed to make a basket as they were strapped in foul trouble. They combined to go 0-for-8 against Langston.
The LU defense, aggressive all evening, was cited 16 times for personal fouls, four under their average of 20 per game. The lack of an inside game hindered the Lions on the road.
On Deck: Bacone College on Monday
Southwestern will wrap up the 2010-11 regular season on Monday night against Bacone College in Muskogee, Oklahoma. The team remained in the Sooner State this weekend. It is 110 miles east/southeast from Langston and just 45 mi. south of Tulsa.
Bacone is currently in fifth place in the RRAC at 19-8 overall and 13-8 versus league foes. A win over Southwestern would knot the two schools for fourth place. The Lady Warriors are coached by Robbie Shay, a former SAGU graduate and Head Coach of the Lady Lions prior to the arrival of Arlon Beadles. The schools enjoy a friendly relationship.
The Warriors have won three in a row, and six of their last eight games. The two met in the Sheaffer Center on January 24, when SAGU came away with a 71-68 triumph. That was during a stretch when the Tribe dropped six-of-nine. They had the best start of any team in the Red River when they zoomed to a perfect 10-0 before a 55-51 loss at home – the Palmer Center.
Bacone is led in scoring by two guards, Michelle Simmons (13.6 ppg) and Noelani Gi (13.0 ppg).
RRAC Tournament: SAGU and Bacone could meet again
The Red River Athletic Conference tournament will be played next week, March 3-5. Southwestern will the host to the event. The Lady Lions may play Bacone again if the two teams finish in 4th and 5th place in the standings. The first round of the Women's Tourney will take place at Waxahachie High School's Frank W. Solis Gymnasium. It is located on Indian Drive (behind HEB grocery store) on the campus of the Ninth Grade Academy.
Should SAGU win, they would likely face Langston in the semi-finals (in the Sheaffer Ctr)on Friday. The top-seeded team goes against the team in 8th place. Jarvis College, University of the Southwest and Wiley College are all tied with 5-16 records. One of them will qualify on Monday.
What Happens If...
For the Lady Lions to earn a return trip to the NAIA national tournament (March 16-22) in Jackson, Tennessee, they will need to win the RRAC tourney. If they do not, they plan to enter the Central Regional of the *NCCAA the following weekend, March 10-12, in Oklahoma City.
*National Christian College Athletic Association