Lady Lions hold off Texas College
79-76 win offsets loss of Winston
Freshman Hill thrills crowd, Hankins saves day
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- “There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in.” - Deepak Chopra.
Southwestern Assemblies of God University, sore from two straight losses and the news their best player was lost for the season, got a glimpse of the future on Monday night at the Sheaffer Center.
Freshman guard Taylor Hill (Waxahachie, Tex / Waxahachie HS) energized the Lady Lions with 18 first half points en route to a game-high 23 as SAGU topped Texas College, 79-76.
The win lifted SAGU’s spirits and their won-lost record to 4-5. It was also their first triumph after two losses in the Red River Athletic Conference and ended a two-game losing streak against the team from Tyler.
“This was a great win for our team,” said an encouraged Head Coach Arlon Beadles. “The team really needed this win after losing Nia (Winston) to a torn Achilles.”
The junior guard from Garland was scoring over 17 points per game when she was felled.
“It was great to see our young team fight through the pressure,” he added.
SAGU took an early lead and maintained it, sometimes precariously, until the final buzzer. In the lead throughout, the Lady Lions’ frantic pace nearly cost them.
Twenty-nine turnovers eroded a 15-point advantage, but the inspired play of a line-up that included almost all underclassmen, staved off a Lady Steers comeback.
Team Lioness had a 75-63 upper-hand with 4:09 remaining.
Texas College scored seven unanswered points before a huge three-pointer by Okevia Bratchett (Center, Tx / Tenaha HS) pushed the lead back up to 78-70.
A sophomore guard, Keevie, who averaged three points per game last season, is now scoring at a 10 points per game clip. She leads the team in both assists and steals. She had four helpers on Monday.
The relentless Steers netted three baskets in a row, all following turnovers. On a 13-3 run, they set up a closing thirty seconds that had the crowd on its feet.
While the SAGU offense misfired down the stretch, it was the play of junior center Sierra Hankins (Welch, Ok / Welch HS) that saved the day.
SAGU missed a breakaway layup and grabbed the offensive rebound only to miss another chance to ice the game.
Trailing 78-76, the Lady Steers (1-8, 0-3 in the RRAC) fought for the equalizer.
Sophomore forward Ashli Smith drove inside the lane, but her shot was blocked by Hankins, who stood like a mighty oak.
Following a TC foul, the Lady Lions missed the front end of a one-and-one, giving the Horns another chance to tie or win.
Sekeya Roberson, a senior guard, managed to get inside on a drive. She missed a layup with Hankins snatching her tenth rebound. She made one of two free throws with eight seconds remaining.
Texas College was still alive. Their final opportunity went awry when senior forward Keyara Criner’s baseline trey bounced off the rim at the buzzer.
Notwithstanding the scare at the end, the Lady Lions' overall performance saw them produce four double-digit scorers.
Hill’s 23 was supported by Kassy Cox (Lufkin, Tx / Lufkin HS), who netted 16, Hankins had a 15-point effort and 13 more came from Bratchett.
Led by that quartet, SAGU shot 52% from the court.
Hankins’ floor game, in which she sank seven of nine shots, included 10 rebounds, three blocked shots. The high post hoopster also racked up a game-high six assists.
Her points, blocks and assist totals were all career highs.
Cox, a sophomore, broke her career mark in scoring for the second time in a week. She ripped down 15 rebounds, helping SAGU battle the Lady Steers to a 40-40 draw on the boards.
“Four players that scored in double-figures and a great rebounding effort by Kassy and Sierra,” summarized Coach Beadles. “They all stepped up their game.”
“This is a tough conference,” he added. “Every game is hard. Maybe this group is learning how to win!”
Texas College, did, however, own an 18-11 edge on the offensive glass. That led to their 77-60 advantage in total shots attempted. They made just 35% of their shots, so they didn’t capitalize on their opportunities.
SAGU made plenty of opportunities with an attacking style on offense. When not sinking layups or jumpers, they prompted fouls on Steers defense.
That resulted in trying their hand at 26 free throws. There, they converted only twelve. SAGU entered the game having hit 63% from the charity stripe, good for fifth-best in the league.
The Lady Lions forced 24 turnovers, much of it coerced by their young backcourt. The team vaulted out of the gate in building a quick lead, growing it to 31-18, before taking a 45-33 lead into the locker room.
Minus their leader, Winston, the squad did not lack for players willing to contribute. That was huge positive for a young club that still has 21 games to play.
Crossing the Red River for two games
They return to the court with a pair of weekend road games in Oklahoma. On Saturday the Lady Lions take on Bacone College (1-5, 0-3 in RRAC). The contest will be at 5:30pm at the Palmer Center.
On Monday, December 10, SAGU faces perennial power, Langston University (1-7, 1-2 in RRAC), also at 5:30pm.
LU, off to their slowest start in seven seasons, began the year ranked #14 in the NAIA's Pre-Season Coaches Poll.
The next home game for the Purple Pride is Thursday, December 13, when LSU-Shreveport comes to town. The Lady Pilots are off to a 7-1 start.
SAGU will play another pair of away games before taking off for Christmas and New Years.
They travel to Hobbs, New Mexico to meet the University of the Southwest (3-7) on Saturday, December 15. Then they tangle with Texas Wesleyan University (5-2) in Forth Worth, on Monday, Dec. 17.
Following the holiday break, the Lady Lions welcome the University of St. Thomas (4-5) for a January 5 home date. That game is the first of nine contests to be aired by SAGU Sports Live.