Lady Lions fall at Langston, 73-64
Winston, Bruner have standout efforts
Race for tournament bid tightens for SAGU
LANGSTON, Oklahoma -- Nia Winston (Garland, Tx / Panola JuCo, Lakeview Centennial HS) poured in 19-points and distributed six assists but it wasn’t enough to prevent Southwestern Assemblies of God University from falling, 73-64, to Langston University.
The 5-time defending champions of the Red River Athletic Conference could be on their way to a sixth. Head Coach Jerome Willis’ Lady Lions won for the seventh straight time to improve their overall record to 24-2 and 18-2 against RRAC foes.
Still, Langston, ranked #10 in today’s NAIA’s Top 25 Coaches Poll, lead second place #28 LSU-Shreveport (19-6, 17-2 RRAC) by a half-game. LU swept the season series from the Lady Pilots, 73-65 and 72-54.
Southwestern dropped their third game in a row as their won-lost ledger slid to 9-16. It also snaps their streak of winning regular-season records at three after racking up 24, 25 and 23 during the previous three campaigns.
While remaining in eighth place with a 6-13 mark, their lead over Bacone College (10-15, 6-14 RRAC) was trimmed to a half-game after the Warriors were awarded a forfeit win over Paul Quinn College on Monday.
The top eight teams qualify for the RRAC tournament, which will be hosted by SAGU the first weekend in March.
SAGU easily outshot their counterparts in the C.F. Gayles Fieldhouse but were done-in by their inability to take care of the ball. Thirty-three turnovers allowed Langston enough extra chances to fire 25 more shots than the Purple Pride. In field goal accuracy, SAGU hit 46% from the field while holding the host Lions to only 31%.
The battle for rebounds was fairly even overall, 40-39, in favor of LU. They did, however, dominate on the offensive glass – always an indicator of hustle and energy, by owning a 15-2 advantage.
Another critical category that aided the home team's cause happened on the foul line. Langston knocked down 24 of 32 while SAGU was good on 13 of 17 - a difference of 11-points.
“We played pretty well for much of the game,” said first year Assistant Coach Ryan Russell. “But there were about six minutes where we lost focus and panicked against their press. Our mistakes were quickly turned into easy layups that hurt us.”
SAGU jumped to a 10-0 lead before Langston applied fullcourt pressure. The orange-clad ‘Cats overcame a 15-5 deficit to storm into a 36-29 lead at intermission. They never lost the lead though they could never put away the younger Lions.
High Sierra ignites comeback
Down by 13 with seven minutes to play, SAGU made an impressive run at Langston. Sierra Hankins (Welch, Ok / Welch HS), who has battled a bum shoulder on her shooting arm for most of the season, came off the bench to spark the rally.
Hankins stroked three 15-foot jumpers and bucketed eight-points in just nine minutes. Southwestern whittled their debt to four-points with 4:30 to play, but could draw no closer.
“We battled hard until the end,” Russell said. “We just couldn’t get over the hump. They (LU) had a few players who produced when they needed a lift.”
Top Cats for both Lady Lion teams
Six-foot-two senior Kimberly Jones led the way, accounting for 23-points. The Georgia native made 11-of-19 shots, grabbed eight rebounds and made three steals. Shontice Simmons, a guard from Maryland and their leading scorer this year, added 14 points while dishing out five dimes and leading the press with six steals.
According to Coach Russell, the player who made the biggest impact on the game was Vicoria Felix, a 6-foot junior. She came off the bench and racked up 16-points on the strength of her boardwork. She snatched seven rebounds; six of them coming on the offensive glass, which led to a few easy putbacks. Felix also converted 8-of-11 foul shots in only 19 minutes of playing time.
SAGU was led by Winston, who can fill-up a stat sheet. Besides her aforementioned points and assists, the sophomore netted four three-point baskets and was 3-of-4 on the foul line. She added five rebounds and collected five steals.
Senior forward Gabby Bruner (Peaster, Tx / Peaster HS) overcame foul trouble by donning her steel-toed boots, construction helmet, tool belt and work gloves. The Queen of Grit registered 16-points on 7-of-11 shots, laid claim to six caroms, two steals and a pair of assists in 26 minutes.
Prior to fouling out, junior Shaquita Roberts (San Antonio, Tx / Byron Steele HS) had six points, four boards and three blocked shots. She was limited to 18 minutes due to fouls. Kassy Cox (Lufkin, Tx / Lufkin HS) had similar foul issues. She finished with two points and three rebounds in 26 minutes.
8th place finish means playing RRAC's top team
With five games to go in the regular season, SAGU must stave off Bacone while striving to pass 7th place Texas College. An eighth place finish would set up a first round tournament date against Langston on March 2.
SAGU is at Jarvis on Thursday
SAGU travels east on highway 80 to Hawkins, Texas on Thursday where they will play sixth-place Jarvis Christian College (12-7, 12-7 in RRAC) at 5:30pm. The Bulldogs had a stunning rally in the final two minutes to beat the Lady Lions a month ago, 53-46, in overtime.
Southwestern returns home on Saturday for the Coaches versus Cancer fund-raiser during their 5:30pm clash against LSU-Shreveport.