Lady Lions yield to Texas College
SAGU loses 9-point lead and game
Winston, Rodriguez, Roberts fuel solid first half
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- The Southwestern Assemblies of God University women's basketball team outrebounded Texas College and built a nine-point first half lead on Monday night. It wasn't enough as the Lady Steers rallied for 41 second half points to win 70-59 over the Lady Lions.
SAGU came up short for the sixth consecutive game but remain in the hunt for the eighth and final position in next week’s Red River Athletic Conference tournament. Bacone College and Huston-Tillotson University, who are in a virtual tie with the Lady Lions in a battle for a tourney berth, also lost on Monday night.
The game was a microcosm of the season for Southwestern. Trailing early, they put together an impressive stretch of basketball that saw them lead by nine on three occasions. They were not able to sustain it as a high-energy, quicker Texas College team willed their way past the younger Lady Lions.
SAGU, whose won-lost record is now 9-19 and their RRAC mark at 6-16, rode the inside-outside combination of Shaquita Roberts (San Antonio, Tx / Byron Steele HS) and both Jirah Rodriguez (Georgetown, Tx / Georgetown HS) and Nia Winston (Garland, Tx / Panola JuCo, Lakeview Centennial HS) to put the Lady Steers on their heels.
Three Bucketeers spark Team Lioness
The trio united to trigger a solid 16-6 run. Winston twice filled the cup on three-pointers on assists from Rodriguez, who returned the favor when she gunned a 3-ball from the corner following a pass from Winston for a 23-14 lead at 5:27.
In between, Roberts powered layups in the paint when Winston dished inside dimes that Shaq redeemed for baskets. Roberts added a pair of free throws in the process as SAGU was controlling the pace of the game and the lead.
Okevia Bratchett (Center, Tx / Tenaha HS), a nippy freshman guard, went coast-to-coast for an easy bucket and a 27-18 upper hand with 4:08 remaining in the half.
The Lady Steers appeared to her take Bratchett’s exhibition of speed as a cue, as they spent the rest of the night exhausting a Thesaurus on ‘quick.’
While SAGU missed four straight shots and a pair of free throws, the visitors’ went on a 9-0 run and were within 31-29 at intermission. They scored the first eight points in the second half and were never headed again.
The Steers attacked the Southwestern zone with quick passes that found Connie Espinas (ess-PEE-nahs) open on the left wing for four triples to effectively sway the game in their favor.
“They (SAGU) would double-team the post, so we rotated the ball to find whoever was open,” said the 5-foot-4 sophomore from Stafford. She was the one left unguarded. “When I’m wide open,” she said, “I had to take them (the shots). I am the designated shooter.”
The Steers average a league-least one triple per game. When asked the last time she hit four in a game, the upbeat Filipino said, “It’s been a while. Not this season.” She did knock down all three attempts against Langston University three weeks ago.
Giving credit to their defense, she said Texas College turned up the defensive pressure and it “…turned into layups. We’re a running team, and we score a lot in the transition game.”
They also found success in getting the ball to Keyara Criner, a 6’0 junior, near the right block. The fleet-footed forward poured in 15-points, many on spin moves akin to a whirling dervish.
While Lions misfire, Herd stampedes
Meanwhile, the Lady Lions missed countless layups and inside jumpers, often shot hurriedly.
“Our bigs (forwards and post players) didn’t finish around the rim,” confessed Arlon Beadles, Southwestern’s veteran head coach. “We were only 8-of-24 from point blank range.”
“We didn’t attack the basket as we could have,” he continued. “Once they jumped on us in the first five minutes of the second half, we couldn’t get Old Mo (momentum) back on our side. We got in that hole (trailing 37-31) and that killed us.”
The closest SAGU came the rest of the way at 45-42 when Gabby Bruner (Peaster, Tx / Peaster HS) hit Rodriguez on the wing for a trey at the 10:31 mark.
“It was a disappointing loss. Against a good team like Texas College, we have to play better. They (TC) played very well and deserved the win.”
Coach Beadles mentioned the solid play of Myesha (MY-EE-shah) Carrington as well as Criner, whom he said “played a great inside game.”
“We had been making real progress in recent weeks against some of the best teams in the league. Tonight we played poorly in the second half. We’ve got to keep working though. We can still make the tournament with another win.”
Two Remaining Games: Home finale next Monday
The Lady Lions close the regular season at Wiley College (19-8, 15-7 in RRAC) in a 2:00pm Saturday matinee. In perhaps the highlight of the season, SAGU defeated the Wildcats, 63-59, in mid-January.
Next Monday, February 27, the University of St. Thomas (7-20, 4-17 in RRAC) visits the Sheaffer Center in both the season home finale and “Senior Night.”
The loss also knocked the Lady Lions out of playing in the National Christian College Athletic Association’s Central Regional in Denver.
Pillich: Restraining Adrenaline
Texas College, who has won six of their last ten games, played with gusto and great desire according to head coach Jennifer Pillich.
“Intensity level is critical,” she said while watching the men’s game. “We work hard to maintain control and our composure while amping up the intensity.”
The animated Pillich praised the leadership of upper-classmen Carrington and Criner (CRY-nuhr). “They played like you want veterans to play,” she said.
She explained the second half surge to take over the game. “We came out of the locker room and began executing. The team was putting out and playing to win. We finished hard.”
“We’re not playing just to play.”
Coach Pillich also pointed to three SAGU players whose skills she liked in Roberts, Bruner and Kassy Cox (Lufkin, Tx / Lufkin HS).
SAGU, who outrebounded the Steers, 38-28, made just 9-of-28 shots in the second half to finish the game at 36% accuracy. Texas College connected on 41% of their shots and made 14 turnovers compared to 21 by SAGU. They also swished 20-of-26 free throws.
The Lady Lions were led in scoring by Winston and Rodriguez, who racked up 14 and 13 points respectively. The two combined for seven trifectas, four by Winston, who had the same number in assists. Bratchett added eight-points. Roberts accounted for six points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots and Bruner contributed six points and as many boards.
Four Steers reached double figures, led by Carrington and Criner, each with 15. Espinas tossed in 12 and Shirley McGowen, their season scoring leader, added 11 and a game-high five steals. Ashli Smith grabbed nine caroms.
The loss completed a sweep for the Steers, who rallied to win the first meeting, 59-57, in Tyler.
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