Second half pressure cracks Lady Lions
Hankins, Cox, Griffin anchor SAGU baseline
Wiley breaks open close game, nears RRAC title
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- Needing one win in their last two games of the regular season to clinch a berth in the Red River Athletic Conference tournament, the women’s basketball team at Southwestern Assemblies of God University was a half away from pulling a major upset of Wiley College.
Trailing 26-24 in the latter stages of the first half, the Lady Lions were holding their own against the hottest team in the league. SAGU was limiting their mistakes against the press and were making over 50% of their shots.
Like they were suddenly signaled, Wildcat defenders began to gather about the ball like wasps around a jam jar. Wiley eased ahead at the half, 41-34, and then broke the game open by squeezing SAGU into 21 second half turnovers in an 86-55 verdict.
With the win, no. 20 ranked Wiley moved to within a win of clinching a share of the RRAC championship with no. 21 Our Lady of the Lake University (27-2, 20-2 in RRAC).
The ‘Cats, however, own the critical tie-breaker, having swept the season series against OLLU; 90-87 in Marshall, and 84-82 in San Antonio.
Wiley (25-3, 19-2 in RRAC), winners of seven straight, can earn the automatic NAIA tournament berth and the #1 seed in next week’s RRAC tourney by defeating St. Thomas (15-14, 11-10 in RRAC) at home on Monday.
Coupled with a Bacone College (9-17, 7-14 in RRAC) 72-59 win over Texas College, the Lady Lions (9-20, 5-16 in RRAC) will miss post-season play for the first time in years.
SAGU will wrap-up the season on Monday with a road game at no. 25 LSU-Shreveport (23-4, 18-3 in RRAC). The game will start at 5:30pm at the Dock, the home of the River Pilots.
The Lady Lions stayed close on the strength of the play inside by Sierra Hankins (Welch, Ok / Welch HS) and Brittany Griffin (Rockwall, Tx / Rockwall Christian) and Kassy Cox (Lufkin, Tx / Lufkin HS).
SAGU stayed within reach of the speedy Wildcats as Andrea Lugo (San Antonio, Tx / Somerset HS) and Taylor Hill (Waxahachie, Tx / Waxahachie HS) each racked up three assists in the first half. Hankins led the team with nine points and four rebounds by intermission.
Team Lioness was within 13-11 and later, when Griffin stroked a baseline jumper following a pass from Okievia Bratchett (Center, Tx / Tenaha HS), trailed 26-24.
Wiley’s Kiera Oby answered with a three-point basket as the visitors established a 35-26 lead.
Lugo (LOO-go) found Cox in the paint on an inbounds pass for a second time to pull the Lions to within 38-32. They would get no closer.
Four consecutive turnovers in the backcourt were cashed into easy buckets as the Wildcats amped up their press after the half.
Dribbling though double teams was as effective as trying to squeeze a size twelve foot into a size nine shoe. The six-point halftime margin quickly became 62-40, a 21-6 run that seized control of the contest for the Wildcats.
By game’s end the Lady Lions had 31 turnovers against the purple-cladded Wiley “wine press.”
SAGU still made 42% of their shots and all twelve of their free throws. It was the turnovers that allowed Wiley additional possessions. They converted 50% of their attempts, and, even though they lacked the Lions’ height, won the boards, 39-28.
However, the Lions zone defense did succeed in forcing the Cats to settle for perimeter and long-distance shooting.
Averaging just 3.8 trey per game, 11th in the league, they ripped the nets on 11-of-17 tries. It was easily their season-best. Their previous high was six, accomplished 13 games ago. Saturday was their day.
Junior Danisha Shaw and senior Aliesha Carruthers poured in 25 and 24 points respectively, collaborating to make 18-of-29 attempts. They each made four triples to thwart a good strategy by the Lions.
It was the fifth best effort this year by Carruthers, who ranks fifth in the RRAC in scoring (16.6 ppg). For Shaw (15.1 ppg), her hot hand came just two days after netting 34 in an 87-55 road win at Texas College.
Cox, averaging 5.9 points per game, led SAGU with 12. The 6-foot-1 sophomore was good on six-of-nine shots. It was her first time to reach double-figures in 21 games. She added six rebounds and blocked a shot.
Hankins racked up 11 points and a team-best seven boards. It was her third game in double-digits in the last four outings, and her twelfth overall this year.
She has grabbed 40 rebounds in the past three games. The team-leader in blocked shots, the 5-foot-11 junior notched two more on Saturday.
Hill added nine points and, along with Lugo, had four assists. Krock and Griffin each bagged a half dozen points.
The Lady Lions continue to improve as the 2013 campaign winds down. The team has no seniors and, should the three starters who missed the entire season return, the future is bright for the purple and gold.