Lady Lions let lead slip away
Fourth heartbreaking loss in six games
Rodriguez scores 19, Lewis provides spark
TYLER, Texas -- The Southwestern Assemblies of God University women’s basketball team placed three players in double figures on Monday night and solidly outrebounded Texas College. The Lady Lions held the lead until the final two minutes before finishing on the short end of a 59-57 score.
Struggles in the backcourt, their bugaboo this season, proved costly throughout. SAGU turned the ball over 35 times, though they forced a generous TC team into 27 giveaways.
The Lady Lions led at the half, 26-24, and still held a two-point margin late in the game.
That’s when 5-foot-4 inch sophomore Connie Espinas swung the lead and momentum in favor of the hosts.
With a defender in her face and 1:30 left on the clock, she drained a three-point basket from the left wing to give the Lady Steers a one-point lead. They never lost it.
Southwestern missed chances in the end to rally as missed free throws and a critical lane violation (allowing a re-do, which TC converted) short-circuited their impetus.
On their final possession, Nia Winston (Garland, Tx / Panola JuCo, Lakeview Centennial HS) was tripped up as she neared the three-point line. With the clock nearing zeroes, her off-balance 3-ball was off the mark at the buzzer.
It was the fourth time in six games they lost the lead in the final two minutes of play.
“The team was pretty disappointed,” said Assistant Coach Ryan Russell. “They have worked very hard at improving. We led and felt we should have won.”
“But you can’t expect to win when turnovers give the other team 35 extra possessions,” he explained. “If we had managed to score on just a few of those possessions, the outcome would’ve been different.”
The setback was the Lady Lions tenth in a row after opening the season with three straight wins. At 3-10 overall and 0-7 in the Red River Athletic Conference, the team needs a turnaround if they are to recover and qualify for the RRAC tournament.
Texas College, also in a rebuilding year, upped their mark to 2-11 after starting the season with eight consecutive losses. Head Coach Jennifer Pillich, a former college star at both Southern Cal and Huston-Tillotson, led TC to a 19-12 season last winter in which they dropped a pair of single-digit defeats at the hands of SAGU. They are currently 2-6 in league games.
After watching her squad connect on only seven of 24 first half shots (29%), they ratched-up their defensive pressure after intermission. It resulted in a handful of steals which led to easy baskets. Thirteen of their 25 second half shots (52%) went through the cylinder, including 3-of-4 trifectas.
The Lady Lions' green backcourt, which combined to make 23 of the team’s turnovers, had two players step-up their production, drawing praise from the coaching staff.
Rodriguez, Lewis deliver the goods
Sophomore wing Jirah Rodriguez (Georgetown, Tx / Georgetown HS) equaled her career-best in points by scoring 19. She netted 7-of-12 shots, including 3-of-5 beyond the arc. It was the third time in her career that she made a trio of threes and the first this season.
It was also her fifth time to reach double figures this season and just the second time in the past eight games. It was timely!
As a freshman forward she poured in 19 against Oklahoma’s Southwestern Christian University (11-6-2010) and was credited with 12 double-digit efforts in her 36 game season.
Freshman Sascha Lewis (Lufkin, Tx / Hudson HS), a 5’4 guard, had her number called after averaging just four minutes of playing time in nine previous games. She scored a total of nine points in those brief appearances.
“Her performance helped change the game,” admitted Coach Russell, a first-year assistant under Arlon Beadles. “She gave us a very good lift. She converted layups on drives and nailed a three-ball.”
Lewis tallied nine points, swishing four of eight tries. She added a pair of rebounds and three steals in less than 14 minutes on the hardwood.
Sophomore point guard and leading scorer Winston (12.2 ppg), battled through defensive coverages to bucket 11 points, including three triples.
Cordia Harvatin (San Antonio, Tx / Stacey HS), a 5’8 freshman guard, has yet to find her shooting rhythm after scoring over 26ppg as a prep senior. On Monday she hit a trey during a five point effort and snared three caroms in nine minutes.
Frontcourt Force; Roberts, Bruner
The Purple Pride frontcourt was stellar, as usual. Shaquita Roberts (San Antonio, Tx / Byron Steele HS), the NAIA’s national leader in blocked shots (4.7 per game), rejected seven more. She ripped down nine rebounds, three of them offensive, and made 5-of-7 shots for 11 points.
Her baseline senior bucketeer, Gabby Bruner (Peaster, Tx / Peaster HS), only scored two points, but she did grab a team-high 10 boards and a shot block.
Texas College was led by junior guard, Sekeya Roberson, who came off the bench to net 11 points. She stroked four of her five shots, made five assists and five steals. Espinas finished with 10.
The Steers bench outscored SAGU’s, 27-14. They parlayed Lady Lion miscues into a 25-9 edge in points off of turnovers.
SAGU made 39% of their shots (22 of 57), including 40% (8 of 20) from long distance. The team had few opportunities from the charity stripe, making 5-of-9, though three of those misses came down the stretch.
Controlling the boards, 34-24, Team Purp also owned an 11-5 advantage on the offensive end. They were called for 19 fouls.
Texas College, who ended an 8-game losing skid against SAGU, converted 41% (20 of 49) of their two-point attempts, while knocking down 3-of-6 triples. They may’ve won the game on the foul line where eight different players united make 16 of 25 (64%). The Steers were cited for 14 fouls.
Follow the Lady Lions on SAGU SPORTS Live
Next up for SAGU are a pair of home games on Thursday and Saturday. Both will be broadcast in High Definition by SAGU SPORTS Live. Viewers can access the NAIA’s finest livestream service by clicking on Watch SAGUtv at www.sagu.edu home page.
Clay Scarborough and Tim Roberts will provide the play-by-play and color analyst roles starting with the pre-game show at 5:15pm. Livestats are also provided.
Home Games on Thursday, Saturday
They will take on an improved Wiley College team on January 12 at 5:30pm. The Lady Wildcats are 9-4 overall and 5-3 in the RRAC, good for fifth place in the 13-team league.
As the highest scoring team in the Red River (84.0 ppg), they have eclipsed the century mark three times and 90 on three other occasions.
Saturday, Jan. 14, SAGU welcomes Dallas’ Paul Quinn College (3-10, 2-5 RRAC) to the Sheaffer Center for a 5:30pm clash.