Lady Saints Hit Season-Best 18 Threes

MOVING ON UP:  Heather Jefferson drives past Krystal Manning (left) for a deuce on Monday night. Photo by Gina Godding.WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- When one strategy wasn't enough, they combined it with another. Our Lady of the Lady University (9-5, 6-3), combining effective backcourt pressure with red-hot shooting in the second half to hand Southwestern Assemblies of God University (13-4, 8-1) an 82-61 defeat on Monday night in women's basketball.

The deliberate and efficient offense that has led SAGU to 62 wins in just over two seasons often faces fullcourt pressure by opponents who try to disrupt their rhythm. It is seldom effective against the disciplined Lady Lions. Until Monday. Even still, Our Lady couldn't break the game open simply by forcing turnovers.

That's when the Lady Saints lit the fuse on a perimeter assault that was as hot as a Fourth of July rocket!

OLLU connected on 12 of 19 three-point shots in the second half alone, proving true which the age-old means to overcoming an effective zone defense. Shoot over it. And no one plays the zone better than SAGU, who has ranked in the top ten nationally the past three seasons. Combined with 6-of-11 shooting beyond the arc in the latter stages of the first half sparked a performance by the Lady Saints to propel them to an impressive triumph.

Saints Coach Sums it up well

"It was just one of those nights," said OLLU head coach Rusty Kennedy. "We know we're capable of this kind of three-point shooting. We made 16 (threes) against Paul Quinn two days ago. But we've struggled a lot. We've been up and we've been down. Tonight was an up," he said in an understatement.

The Lady Saints have reached double figures in trifectas in three games; 16 against Paul Quinn, 17 in a game with Dillard University and 18 versus SAGU.

Comparing SAGU and OLLU in Threes and Turnovers

Chelsea Jones looks for room against the Lady Saints’ Beth Hampton in a matchup of the game’s top two scorers. Photo available at uncommon was their torrid showing in the Sheaffer Full Life Center? It tripled their average of 6.4 treys per game, which, coincidentally, is less than SAGU's own 6.6. Our Lady came into the contest making only 29% of their attempts outside the arc. SAGU led the Red River Athletic Conference by knocking down 41% of theirs.

As for the OLLU press that coerced 25 turnovers out of the SAGU offense... it was an average effort by the Halos. By comparison, they squeezed 37 from Langston University last week and Bacone, another team near the top of the RRAC, coughed it up 33 times. Wayland Baptist barely defeated Our Lady in spite of 36 miscues forced by the Saints press.

Their three-quarter court press and its various packages are what fuel their team. With a line-up that is deep with quick and athletic players, Our Lady is perfectly suited to apply such strategy. By the same token, Southwestern's strengths enable them to thwart teams with a zone defense that forces opponents to take lower percentage shots from the outer limits. To beat the Lady Lions, enemy shooters must be on their marks. Tonight was "one of those nights."

More Kennedy 'Coach Speak'

"Our guards were extremely active tonight," Kennedy added. "Our assistant coaches do a great job preparing them. We have eight returning players from last year – and they were the key."

About Southwestern, Kennedy said: "They're such an effective and patient team. If we sit back allow them to walk the ball up the court, they'd kill us. We felt we had to make them uncomfortable (with the press). I have a lot of respect for Arlon (Beadles), their coach, and the team he coaches. We had to do something to take them off of their game."

To be sure. SAGU had won 10 straight games, the longest in school history, and entered the game as the lone undefeated team in the RRAC.

First Half Review

Early on the Purple Pride was able to solve the press. An 11-1 run by SAGU gave them a 17-7 lead with 9:29 remaining in the first half. Chelsea Jones (San Antonio, Tx / Cornerstone Christian) and Rachel Harris (Joshua, Tx / Bethesda Christian) both drained a pair of triples to boost the hosts to a solid start.

KeKe McDade, Krystal Manning and Ashley Hicks countered with 3-balls and the Saints answered with a 14-2 run with 4:55 showing on the first half clock.

However, SAGU quelled the rally and overcame a 24-21 deficit thanks to a pair of free throws by both Jones and Jirah Rodriguez (Georgetown, Tx / Georgetown HS). Rodriguez then put the Lions ahead when she fired a trey from the corner following an assist from Stephanie Hawkins (DeSoto, Tx / DeSoto HS). With 1:22 remaining before intermission, SAGU led 28-25.

Manning replied when she took advantage of SAGU turnovers and another on a charging foul to score on a 3-ball and a jumper to take a 30-28 lead at the break. Both teams had amassed 16 turnovers apiece by recess.

Second Half Summary

The contest remained close for the first eight minutes of the second frame as both teams had better control of the ball.

Leading 44-40, the Lady Saints turned to the long ball. Beth Hampton came off the bench to pop two straight threes, and Manning nailed another as Team Blue zoomed to a 60-42 advantage with 7:50 to go.

Hampton closed out the game by connecting on three more triples to finish a 5-for-5 exhibition beyond the arc. The 5'10 senior guard ended the game with 18 points off the bench. Manning and Stacey Darnley bucketed 18 and 12 respectively. The three guards combined to make 14 of 22 three-pointers.

Team Totes

The Lady Lions managed to limit their turnovers in the second half (nine), but couldn't make a run to close the gap. Still, they were 8-of-14 from downtown, a .571 effort, and shot 38% overall for the game. SAGU was outrebounded 37-28 for the game, 18-11 after intermission.

A key statistic was the total number of shot taken by both teams. Our Lady was able to attempt 60; the Lady Lions only 37. The reason was the number of SAGU turnovers cashed into baskets as well as a 16-8 Saints' advantage in offensive boards.

The disciplined aspect of SAGU's game shone in their combined numbers on the foul line where they tossed in 25 of 34 tries (73%). Of course, the Saints aggressive defense helped send them there.

Lady Lions Stats Review

SAGU was led in scoring by Jones, who poured in a game high 19 points. She was held to 11 shot attempts. She made four steals, grabbed five boards, blocked a pair of shots, and hit 3-of-5 treys. Rodriguez added 14 points, while Harris bagged nine on 3-of-4 shooting beyond the arc.

The press put the clamps on Hawkins and Heather Jefferson (Conroe, Tx / Conroe HS), who could make only  2-of-9 shots between them. Jefferson finished with eight points while the Hawk had seven. They were productive on the charity stripe, making good on 11-of-14 as a backcourt unit. Sierra Hankins (Welch, Ok / Welch HS) added three points.

The win moved Our Lady of the Lake into a three-way tie for third in the RRAC with Texas Wesleyan (14-3, 6-3) and Bacone (12-3, 6-3).

Cat Fight this Saturday: Langston vs Southwestern

Southwestern is back in action this Saturday with a critical clash with Langston University (13-4, 8-1). The LU Lady Lions visit the FLC in a 5:30pm dual that will determine the first place leader near the midway point in the regular season. Teams play a full, 22-game conference schedule this year.

Langston, riding a seven-game winning streak, moved up from #21 to #18 in this week's NAIA Coaches Poll. SAGU, despite a string of 10 consecutive wins, dropped from #31 to #35. A home win over Langston would be great tonic for Monday's setback.