Lady Lions 'almost' catch Wiley
Behind by 22, SAGU draws within three
Griffin, Brown, Harvatin ignite huge rally
MARSHALL, Texas -- Almost. Nearly. The only time those words are well-received are when they're an answer to impatient children in the backseat during a trip.
Otherwise, they speak of not quite getting the job done or coming up just short of the prize. "Close, but no cigar," was the idiom told at carnivals to contestants who narrowly missed winning.
Saturday afternoon’s women’s basketball game in East Texas witnessed the Southwestern Assemblies of God University team charge from 22-points down to within 52-49 with 1:57 to play against Wiley College.
They would get no closer in a 57-49 setback in the old Alumni Gym.
The courageous comeback by the Lady Lions, in which they outscored the host Wildcats 26-7 down the stretch, is a tribute to the undying spirit of this team.
So determined were the SAGU players, including a bench that stepped up mightily, they did not allow a single basket to Wiley over the final 16:29 of the game. Their final twelve points were all made from the free throw line.
While drawing up taut their defensive pressure, SAGU limited the ‘Cats to 0-for-12 shooting since they established a 45-23 lead. After forcing just seven turnovers in the first half, the Lions wrung 17 from Wiley during the second half.
Just when Southwestern was on the threshold of taking the lead, they committed four straight turnovers themselves, two on errant inbound passes that led to fouls and free throws that iced the game.
“We were right there,” said Assistant Coach Ryan Russell. “The team fought so hard and they deserved a better finish.”
The Lions never led in this rematch of SAGU’s 63-59 upset in January. After a steal by Nia Winston (Garland, Tx / Panola JuCo, Lakeview Centennial HS) that ended with an Okevia Bratchett (Center, Tx / Tenaha HS) deuce, SAGU was within 23-16 with 4:04 left in the half. Then Wildcats went wild.
By intermission they had zoomed to a 36-19 advantage, helped by 18 mistakes by the Lady Lions.
When Chinwendu Mbah scored on an offensive rebound for a 45-23 lead, Wiley was in control, mostly due to their dominance on the offensive glass.
Revving up the Roar!
The Lady Lions got their mojo going when freshman forward Brittany Griffin (Rockwall, Tx / Rockwall Christian) took a pass from Shaquita Roberts (San Antonio, Tx / Byron Steele HS) and drained a 3-pointer. It revved up the roar, who were behind 49-35 with 8:33 to play.
Griffin, who has appeared sparingly this season, began to contribute more. She assisted an inside hoop by Tina Brown (New Braunfels, Tx / Lifegate Christian) and pulled down four rebounds. Roberts then collected all three of her blocked shots as SAGU tried on ‘momentum’ for size.
Cordia Harvatin (San Antonio, Tx / Stacey HS) powered in a stickback to make it 49-40. Brown reeled in a missed triple by Griffin and deposited it through the cylinder. Bratchett swished a pair of foul shots, as did Brown to pull to within 52-47 (3:32).
Roberts rejected the six-foot Mbah, and Brown secured the rebound. She sped upcourt and sent an entry pass to Roberts. Shaq converted the dime into a bucket and the Lions were on the verge of a monumental comeback.
But the final 1:57 would not be kind.
SAGU forced three turnovers by the Wildcats only to return the favor four times before getting off a single shot. The Lions, with four reserves and Roberts fueling the rally, saw their comeback foiled as Jasmine Davis and Latika Smith sank 5-of-6 free throws to nail down the Wildcats’ narrow escape.
SAGU, who lost their seventh consecutive game to fall to 9-20 overall and 6-17 in the Red River Athletic Conference, still hold the keys to 8th place and a berth in the RRAC tournament. Wiley is now 20-9 and 16-8.
Southwestern had balanced scoring with Winston and Roberts each netting nine points, with the latter grabbing seven rebounds. Gabby Bruner (Peaster Tx / Peaster HS) finished with eight points, while Brown added seven, Bratchett five and Kassy Cox (Lufkin, Tx / Lufkin HS) four, Griffin and Harvatin tossed in three apiece and Andrea Lugo (San Antonio, Tx / Somerset HS) one.
The Lady Lions hindered their cause with 29 turnovers.
Wiley was led by Shakendra Moore, who had 14-points and nine boards. Mbah totaled 11-points.
Senior Night: Monday, February 27
SAGU will wrap-up the regular season on Monday when they entertain Houston’s University of St. Thomas (7-21, 4-18 RRAC) at 5:30pm. A win would clinch the final spot in next weekend’s Red River conference tourney.
It will be the final home appearance by Bruner and Brown, who will be honored following the game.
A loss and win by Huston-Tillotson University (6-21, 6-17 RRAC) over Texas Wesleyan University (23-6, 18-5 RRAC) on Monday would give the final berth to the HT Rams.
Should SAGU qualify for the RRAC tournament, they would face #9 ranked Langston University (28-2, 22-2 RRAC) on Friday, March 2.
Contact: Mark “Link” Warde, Sports Information Director, at