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Road Warriors rally for ninth straight 

SOARING AND SCORING:  Stephanie Hawkins led the team in both points (15) and rebounds (9). Not bad for a 5'5 point guard. Photo by Elizabeth Monsivais.HAWKINS, Texas -- Winning on the road is one of the biggest challenges in sports. Few teams do it well. In the past 10 years, only six NFL teams have more wins than defeats away from the friendly confines of their home facility. It is especially true of basketball. Twenty of thirty NBA teams have losing ledgers away from home.

Teams are especially comfortable on their own court, and they have adjusted to the rims at both ends. Home fans can create an atmosphere that teams can feed off of, or make it less than cozy for visitors. Home teams are sometimes known to even benefit from favorable call by officials, known as "home cooking."

The Red River Athletic Conference is very much like that. Willie Nelson's #1 rated hit single in 1980, "On the Road Again," sang of being anxious to hit the road with friends. He didn't play in the RRAC.

Monday night the Lady Lions of Southwestern Assemblies of God University experienced the vigors of playing their third road game in five days. They faced Jarvis Christian College in East Texas and as they usual, the Lady Bulldogs were a formidable foe.

SAGU led at the half, 31-22, but watched Jarvis surge ahead late in the game by four points with less than three minutes remaining. The Lady Lions regrouped and reclaimed the upper hand just in time to claim a hard fought 60-59 triumph.

Southwestern Remains in the Catbird Seat

I'LL TAKE THAT: Heather Jefferson ripped down seven rebounds. Photo by Elizabeth Monsivais.The win, their ninth in a row, lifted the Purple Pride's overall record to 12-3. They are 7-0 in conference games, and lead second place Langston University (11-4, 6-1) by one game. Those teams meet at SAGU on Saturday, January 22 at 5:30pm. Jarvis, meanwhile, slipped to 6-6 and 2-5.

Daronica Williams, who had struggled to find her range for much of the game, heated up down the stretch. The 5-foot-8 junior shooting guard drained a trio of huge three-pointers that ignited the fans and her teammates.

"We thought we were playing pretty good on defense," said Assistant Coach Jacob Rodriguez on the bus ride home. "We contested those shots, but she still hit them. She was their big spark!"

After taking the lead the Bulldogs appeared to slow the game down in an effort to run time off of the clock. That triggered the Lady Lions into realizing their need for a sense of urgency. And, as is their modus operandi, they rose to the occasion.

Rallying from 4 Points Down to 4 Points Up

Heather Jefferson (Conroe, Tx / Conroe HS). split two foul shots to draw the team to within one point, 56-55.

Jirah Rodriguez (Georgetown, Tx / Georgetown HS) took a pass from Gabby Bruner (Peaster, Tx / Peaster HS), made a great move and slashed inside for a layup to give the Lady Lions the lead for good, 57-56.

On their next possession Chelsea Jones (San Antonio, Tx / Cornerstone Christian), from the right wing, threw a skip pass to Jefferson as she found an opening on the left. She then drove in for a layup and a three point lead. When Stephanie Hawkins (DeSoto, Tx / DeSoto HS) swished one of two free throws, SAGU was on top 60-56 with six seconds on the clock.

Drama til the clock's last tick

The Bulldogs made the most of each tick. Remeitha Buford quickly got upcourt and launched a 3-ball with 3.3 seconds left. The inbounds pass went from Rodriguez to an open Jones near midcourt. Well, almost to Jones.

The ball was deflected by a defender, and wound up in the hands of Williams. While everyone in purple gasped, she hurriedly fired a shot from beyond the arc that eat-up with "want to." The attempt was short of the rim but long on emotion.

When asked how she felt when that potential game-winner was off the mark, Jefferson, 5'6 senior guard spoke for the entire team when she said: "In a word, relieved."

"Every time we go there," she continued, "it's a tough game. The game is physical and it is always tough. It feels like it's you against everybody."

Point guard Drea Lugo (San Antonio, Tx / Somerset HS) echoed Jefferson's sentiments and joked, "There must be something in the water!"

High Sierra

The Lions played very well in the first half according to Coach Rodriguez. "We moved the ball well, we penetrated and dished well, finishing plays with baskets." He added that the team was able to get good shots. "Plus, we were holding them (Jarvis) to one shot."

Drawing a lot of praise for the first half was freshman Sierra Hankins (Welch, Ok / Welch HS). The 5-foot-11 center has made solid progress as the season has developed. She scored six of her eight points all six of her rebounds in the first half.

"She was our lone bright spot in the first half," quipped Rodriguez.

High Flying Hawk

Hawkins paced the Lady Lions offense by netting 15 points. She popped four of seven shots from the field and added a three and six-of-nine free throws. The 5-foot-5 point guard crashed the board to the tune of nine rebounds, three of them on the offensive end. That was better by two of her previous career high (see graph below). Averaging just 2.5 boards per outing, she helped the Lady Lions to a 44-37 edge in rebounds.

Jones battled through another team's attempt to take her out of her game with physical play. That usually results in her filling up the stat sheet in other areas. While she was off in her shooting (4-of-14), she still totaled 13 points, with three treys. She ripped down seven rebounds, had three assists and was credited with six steals. It was the third time this season she made that many thefts in a game.

Three other players tossed in eight points each; Bruner, Jefferson and Hankins. Bruner, the team's leader in collecting caroms, snatched six while Jefferson laid claim to seven boards herself.

Rodriguez had three points while Rachel Harris (Joshua, Tx / Bethesda Christian) did the same, canning a triple.

Jarvis was led by Dinilesizwe Love, a junior guard from Jackson, Tennessee. She poured in 15 points. Williams netted 14 and Jessica King, a 5'11 senior forward, contributed a dozen points and matched that figure in rebounds. Love, Williams and Buford each tossed in three treys, but it took a combined 33 shots between them to make them.

Team Totes

As a team, SAGU shot 32% from the field. Jarvis made 34% of their attempts, though 21 turnovers hurt the Bulldogs chances. The Lady Lions' disciplined play was revealed in their being called for just 13 fouls, compared to 21 against JCC.

Free throws were critical. Southwestern went 14-of-22 (64%) compared to the Bulldogs' 8-of-11 showing. Their numerous tries for threes, 35 to SAGU's 19, illustrated their plan to shoot over the SAGU zone defense. It almost succeeded.

Home Sweet Home

The Lady Lions next five games are at home, beginning with this Saturday's 5:30pm dual against Huston-Tillotson University. The Lady Rams are 4-10 in all games and 3-4 in RRAC action. They stunned Bacone College on Monday, 72-70. BC entered the game with an 11-1 mark and 5-1 Red River record. Team Lioness has won the last three meetings in the series against HTU, which is based in Austin, Texas.

A Bird's Eye View of Hawkeye's Career

Year           Class           RPG           High           PPG           High           3-Pt FGs           FTA-FTM FT%

2007-08          Fr           3.71           7           12.50*           28           28           99-72 .727*

2008-09          Soph           2.38           6           10.81           20           17           95-72 .758

2009-10          Jr           2.86           7         10.59           18           31           81-60 .741

2010-11**      Sr           2.50           7           10.93           21           11           67-48 .716*

Key:   RPG – Rebounds Per Game. PPG – Points Per Game. 3-Pt – Three Point Field Goals. FTA-FTM – Free Throws Attempted, FT's Made, FT Percentage. *Team Leader in that category. **Doesn't include stats from the Jarvis Christian game on 1-10-11.