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Gloomy start dooms Southwestern in 66-51 setback

WINONA LAKE, Indiana -- Their "get up and go" got up and went.

A lethargic start led to a costly defeat for the women's basketball team at Southwestern Assemblies of God University. Allowing Roberts Wesleyan College to grab a 10-0 lead before the national anthem finished led to a 66-51 loss in the semi-finals at the National Christian College Athletic Association's nationals in north-central Indiana. A day earlier the Lady Lions were a picture of precision. Not so on Friday.

SAGU, now 22-13, will play in the Third Place Consolation game on Saturday at 2pm (CST) against Emmanuel College (18-15). Ironically, Head Coach Arlon Beadles coach at Emmanuel prior to coming to Southwestern. Both teams' mascot is the Lady Lions. He has won Coach of the Year in the NCCAA three times at each school.

The game, at 3pm (EST), will be livestreamed. Fans can purchase access to the final game of the season by visiting Grace College's website. They are hosting the three-day event. It will also be the last game in the storied careers of four SAGU seniors.

First Half Tells the Tale

This year's Southwestern team got off to a 13-3 start before a long litany of injuries and health woes led to a staggering 9-10 finish. Added to their struggles, the squad's lack of depth and size has hindered them down the stretch.

The clearest indicator of their chances of winning has been their energy level and focus during the first half of games. During 35 contests they led at halftime 22 times. They won twenty of those games. When the Purple Pride trailed at intermission, they rarely came back. In fact, in the eleven contests in which they were outscored by recess, they only rallied to win once (at Huston-Tillotson). In another game they were tied at the break and eventually lost.

Of late, the indicators of a tired team have been showing up more frequently. In their last 12 games they were behind seven times (by mid-game) while posting a 4-8 record. A week ago in Oklahoma City the Lady Lions played what coach Beadles describes as their poorest start all season. SAGU made only 26% of their shots and trailed Southwestern Christian University (12-17 record), 36-19, at the midway point.

Friday night was not nearly that good.

Red-hot Raiders

While Roberts Wesleyan made six of their first eight shots, the Lions missed 10-of-11. The team from Rochester, New York limited Stephanie Hawkins (DeSoto, Tx / DeSoto HS), who scored 29 on Thursday, to only two shots in the first half. Before Gabby Bruner (Peaster, Tx / Peaster HS) scored inside at the 7:22 mark, SAGU was 1-of-17 with six turnovers in the game's first 12:38 of play. The deficit was 19-7 at the time.

The Raiders extended their advantage to 36-9 and the outcome was no longer in doubt. The score was 38-13 at the half and SAGU had connected on 4-of-28 (14%), their season low. Roberts was 15-of-28 (54%) and were dominating on the boards, 22-11.

Facing a rarity, an opponent playing the zone defense, Southwestern found the going very tough. No wonder teams have a disdain for SAGU's brand of zone. It has rated in the Top 20 the past three seasons as one of the nation's stingiest.

Mirror, mirror on the wall

Friday they met a mirror of themselves, only Roberts was taller and had a talented bench. The Raiders are Division II members of the NAIA, where they finished fifth in the American Mid-East Conference. Their scoring defense is #16 nationally, yielding just 59.4 points per game. Opponents' shooting accuracy is only .347, rating #3 out of 137 teams.

In rebounding, the Red Raiders can call upon 14 players on their roster who are 5'8 or taller, five over six feet tall. SAGU has six players at 5'8 or taller and one at six feet.

Second Half rally falls short

The Lady Lions regrouped at halftime and hit three of their first four three shots. Jirah Rodriguez (Georgetown, Tx / Georgetown HS) drained back-to-back threes, both on assists from Chelsea Jones (San Antonio, Tx / Cornerstone Christian). Then Jones knocked down a jumper after a pass from Hawkins. The deficit was 38-21.

They would get no closer until latter stages of the game as the two teams exchanged scores the rest of the way. In outscoring the Raiders 38-28 in the second frame, the Lady Lions showed a resolve and determination missing in the first half. They simply were in too deep of a hole to climb out against a good team.

Coach Speak

"Roberts Wesleyan is a very good," Coach Beadles said, praising the Raiders. "Their heighth and defense really shut us down in the first half. I was very proud that our team never quit. I wouldn't be surprise if Roberts wins the national championship!"

Saturday's Top Four Teams Square-off

The #4 seed, Roberts, 21-11, advances to face the defending champion, Bethel College (20-14), the #2 seed from Mishawaka, Indiana.

SAGU will be confronted by another defense-oriented team in Saturday's consolation game. Emmanuel (NAIA Division I) ranks #16 in points surrendered (58.7) and are #24 in field goal defense (.374). In contrast, Southwestern is #20 in scoring defense (59.5) and are #15 in shooting defense (.364).

Points will likely be at a premium as the Jungle Kings fight for third.

Cat Stats

No one in SAGU's starting line-up shot better than 40% from the field. Hawkins led the club in scoring with 17, hitting 4-of-10 shots, including a pair of threes. She also swished 7-of-8 on the foul line, had a team high five assists and made three thefts.

In five post-season games (RRAC tourney, Central Regional, NCCAA Nationals), Hawkins has been the team's most consistent player, scoring an even 100 points to average 20.0.

Rodriguez, a freshman forward, added 11 points on 4-of-10 shooting. She netted three triples and grabbed five boards. Jones was bottled up by the Raiders, tossing in nine points on a 4-of-16 effort. Despite being in the heat of the action; 12 rebounds and a game-high five steals, she only went to the foul line twice.

Senior Heather Jefferson (Conroe, Tx / Conroe HS) and Bruner, the other starters, were hindered with foul trouble. Jefferson was 1-of-8 and Bruner 1-of-6 in shooting, scoring five points between them. Bruner fouled out after getting two caroms. The cat-quick Jefferson had three boards and two steals.

The Lions bench outscored the Raiders by a 9-7 count. Freshman Andrea Lugo (San Antonio, Tx / Somerset HS) contributed three points in six minutes of playing time, while junior MacKenzie McDowell (Ft. Worth, Tx / Calvary Christian) added two in over eight minutes of action. Those two figure to get the opportunity to compete for a starting role next fall.

Senior Rachel Harris (Joshua, Tx / Bethesda Christian) and freshman Melissa Giles (Leander, Tx / Summit Christian) each bucketed two points.

Sierra Hankins (Welch, Ok / Welch HS) battled inside defensively and yanked down four boards. The 6'0 freshman will be counted on to pair up with a healthy Shaquita Roberts (San Antonio, Tx / Byron Steele HS), the 6'1 shot-blocker supreme, as two key players in the paint. The team's leading rebounder, Bruner, will be a senior in the fall.

Raiders Leaders

The Raiders were paced by 5'8 sophomore guard Marissa Bunce, who launched seven trifectas in scoring 21 points. She stroked two threes in a row to start the game, setting the pace for her black-clad bucketeers. Brittany McMillon owned the paint. The 6'0 senior was huge, scoring 16 and ripping down 16 boards. In only 28 minutes, she also had two assists, blocked two shots and made a steal.

Team Totes

Southwestern finished the game by making good on 14-of-34 shots (41%) in the second half. It pushed their game totals to 29%. Beyond the arc the Lions hit 6-of-13 after missing all eleven tries in the first half. The 6-of-24 showing (25%) was well below their norm of 36%, which ranks #15 nationally. They were 9-of-12 on the foul line and committed only 11 turnovers.

The Wesleyan women were held to 9-of-29 shooting after recess (31%), but still had a solid overall game at (24-of-57) 42%. In their bid for three-pointers the Raiders were 8-of-23 (35%). They also sunk 10-of-19 foul shots. Roberts held a decisive 43-31 margin in rebounds, including 11-7 on the offensive glass. They were forced into 18 giveaways.

Action Photos and DVD's

Nearly 100 action photographs are available for purchase of the two games the Lady Lions have played in Indiana. Access them through the Grace College website. Once in Athletics, click on Women's Basketball, then the NCCAA Tournament, then the schedule. Following each score is a link to photos. DVD's are also offered.

NCCAA Schedule and Results

March 17, Thursday

#2 Bethel College, Ind 73-70 (OT) #7 Mid-America Christian, Okla

#3 Emmanuel College, Ga 69-55 #6 Trinity International, Ill

#1 Southwestern Assemblies, Tx 74-63 #8 King College, Tenn

#4 Roberts Wesleyan, NY 67-60 (OT) #5 Grace College, Ind

March 18, Friday

#7 Mid-America Christian 72-58 #6 Trinity Int'l

#5 Grace College 67-55 #8 King College

#2 Bethel College 54-48 #3 Emmanuel College

#4 Roberts Wesleyan 66-51 #1 Southwestern Assemblies

March 19, Saturday

7th Place: #6 Trinity -vs- #8 King at 10am (CST)

5th Place: #5 Grace -vs- #7 MACU at noon (CST)

3rd Place: #1 SAGU -vs- #3 Emmanuel at 2pm (CST)

1st Place: #2 Bethel College -vs- #4 Roberts Wesleyan at 4pm (CST)

 

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