Lady Lions have fresh, new look

SAGU plays Monday night home opener at 7pm

WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- The trouble with encores is trying to out-do an already excellent performance. A popular movie asked the question: “What are you going to do for an encore? Walk on water?”

After a third straight season of 23-or-more wins, the Southwestern Assemblies of God University women’s basketball team enters a new season with hopes of building something new and improved.

Home fans will get their first chance to see the Lady Lions on Monday night, November 7, when they play host to Dallas Christian College at 7:00pm. They will don new threads and will introduce a roster with eight new players.

Graduating a super class of All-American Chelsea Jones (San Antonio, Tx / Cornerstone Christian), All-Conference guards Stephanie Hawkins (DeSoto, Tx / DeSoto HS), Heather Jefferson (Conroe, Tx / Conroe HS) and three-point sharpshooter Rachel Harris (Joshua, Tx / Bethesda Christian) has taken 69% of the Lady Lions offense, not to mention leadership.

SAGU picked to finish 3rd by RRAC coaches

The pre-season coaches poll shows there is an expectation on the part of coaches in the Red River Athletic Conference for SAGU to once-again be a contender for the crown. They were picked to finish in a tie for third with Our Lady of the Lake University (20-9). Five-time defending champion Langston University (28-5) was the top choice, with an improving Texas Wesleyan University (28-6) retaining the #2 position.

Coach Beadles says that, in addition to Langston, Wesleyan and OLLU, he expects LSU-Shreveport to bounce back stronger, and mentioned Wiley College and the University of the Southwest as teams to look out for.

Team Overview: Rebuilding to Reloading

The Lady Lions hope to develop from rebuilding to reloading during the season. The most improvement on the squad appears to be in size. “We have seven players who are 5-foot-9 or higher,” Beadles pointed out. “That was our weakness last year.”

 The upgrade in stature should help the ‘Cats in rebounding and in depth off the bench. Last winter the club managed to win despite finishing 12th in the league in rebounds (35.3 per game). They did hold their own by limiting opponents to 38.6 caroms, which was third best.

While he disclosed the rotation of players into the mix hasn’t been fully determined, the early season practices and games will be used to discover the most effective combinations.

Establishing the Line-Up and Bench Rotation

“Last year we were short in depth, going with 2 or 3 players off the bench,” he said in an interview earlier this week. “We could go as deep as 10 this season if the consistency is there.”

Beadles address the need to have players elevate their production to help fill the roles at point guard as well as the two guard, played aptly by Hawkins and Jefferson the previous four years.

Backcourt: Three Guard Positions

The starting line-up in the initial stages of the season will see junior college transfer Nia (NEE-uh) Winston (Garland, Tx / Panola JuCo, Lakeview Centennial HS) manning the point with Andrea Lugo (San Antonio, Tx / Somerset HS) at the two. Both are sophomores.

Winston, a glider on the court, will run the offense. Like her predecessor, Hawkins, she has a 3-point gun and knows how to shoot it. The agile Lugo is a clever passer who runs the floor well and could blossom her considerable skills.

The speedy Okevia Bratchett (Center, Tx / Tenaha HS) and Sascha Lewis (Lufkin, Tx / Hudson HS), known for her shooting, are the primary back-ups. “Keevie” will add spark to the line-up on both ends of the floor and could well start.

Sophomore Jirah Rodriguez (Georgetown, Tx / Georgetown HS) moves from forward to the three-guard role, where her scoring touch and driving ability will create more opportunities. She scored 8.1 ppg a year ago, making 33% of her tries at three-pointers. Rodriquez swished 27 treys and 44-of-61 on the foul line (.721).

Tougher than brogans, Rodriguez recently lost a front tooth while playing interior defense during an exhibition game. Well-bloodied and able to whistle, she walked to the bench. Minutes later she returned to the game wearing a purple football mouthpiece and finished the game.

Sixth (Wo)Man: Three-Guard

Adding a new dimension this season is the possibility of injecting the offense with scoring punch off the bench. The plan is to use freshman Cordia Harvatin (San Antonio, Tx / Stacey HS), a 5’8 guard, to fuel the team with verve. Think Mazda’s zoom-zoom.

Harvatin (HAR-vah-tin), both a shooter and slasher, scored over 26 a game during her final prep season. She will likely spell Rodriguez.

Brookllyn Belcher (Venus, Tx / Venus HS), at 5’8, is a freshman battling for playing time. She started for the Lady Bulldogs at nearby Venus High School.

The Frontcourt: Forwards and Centers

Arduous senior forward, Gabby Bruner  (Peaster, Tx / Peaster HS), returns to forward, where her proletarian, work ethic can thrive. The soft-spoken, 5-foot-9 veteran sticks to the fundamentals on the boards, where she led the Cats in rebounds last year. She averaged 6.9 caroms per contest, reaching double-figures on seven occasions.

Bruner (BREW-nuhr) is a clutch free throw shooter and has an accurate touch from inside 15-feet. Her steady expression belies a driven competitor.

Shaquita Roberts (San Antonio, Tx / Byron Steele HS) is an athletic, 6-foot post player whose demeanor is also a contradiction. With a 100-watt smile, she’s an alligator at the beach. Lightning quick, her carnivorous knack for shot-blocking is better respected than known. Shoot at your peril.

Shaq ranked second in the nation in swatting shots as a freshman before a calf injury stamped “ixnay” on most of the past two seasons. Following surgery, she has fully recovered.

During the team’s first live scrimmage against Hill College, a coach complained to the officials; “She can’t block shots like that all day!” It just seems that way.

A few days later she blocked eight against another team.

Twelve times in her only full season she rejected between four and nine. That season the Lady Lions held opposing teams to 30.4% shooting, easily the best in the NAIA. “Baby  Shaq” averaged 7.3 rebounds that year.

Unlike last year, Coach Beadles has a deep cast of reserves on the baseline. He can call on Sierra Hankins (Welch, Ok / Welch HS), another six-foot center. She can rebound and has range on a perimeter jumper that extends to the elbow. Hankins scored 5.3 ppg and stroked .744 at the foul line. Playing exactly 20 minutes per game, the Sooner grabbed 6.9 boards per outing.

Senior transfer Cortney Bolding (Austin, Tx / Howard Payne Univ, Akins HS), brings size at 6’0, experience and boldness on the boards. Beadles has two talented freshmen with ‘game’ as well. 5-foot-11 Brittany Griffin (Rockwall, Tx / Rockwall Christian) is a scorer while Kassy Cox (Lufkin, Tx / Lufkin HS), at 6’1, is a physical influence in the paint.

Cox will join the team after the SAGU volleyball season ends in late November or early December.

Megan Wilson (Ft. Defiance, Az / Navajo Pines HS), 5’7 sophomore, returns to provide depth and agility at the forward position.

The LION-Up: Probable Starters

The likely quintet as the season begins will have Winston at point guard, Lugo at the two-guard, while Rodriguez handles the wing or three-guard. On defense the position often becomes a small forward. Bruner will man the four, or forward, with Roberts positioned in the post (center), commonly called “the 5.”

Contact: Mark “Link” Warde, Sports Information Director, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at 469-658-2847. 

Offensively, Southwestern runs an efficient four-person passing game that is a sound compliment to the defense. It is akin to a football team that plays lights-out defensively and runs the ball on offense.

The Purple Pride will play a 30-game schedule, with fifteen dates set for the Sheaffer Center.

Beginning with the January 7th clash with rival Langston University, the club’s final 11 home games will be broadcast by SAGU Sports Live.