Lady Lions Put Away Rams, 78-67
Jones, Hankins Push Winning Streak to 10
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- Using a late 13-3 run, the women's basketball team from Southwestern Assemblies of God University distanced themselves from a pesky Huston-Tillotson University enrout to a 78-67 triumph on Saturday evening. The win extended the Lady Lions winning streak to ten straight and kept them in first place in the Red River Athletic Conference.
SAGU, now 13-3 this season and ranked #33 in the NAIA, improved their league mark to 8-0 to maintain their one-game lead over Langston University (12-4, 7-1). Tillotson, who gave the Lions all they could handle for much of the night, dropped to 4-11 in all games and 3-5 in the RRAC.
All-American senior forward Chelsea Jones (San Antonio, Tx / Cornerstone Christian) had a solid, all-around game, pouring in a game-high 24 points. She was 8-of-15 from the field, including three triples, four rebounds and a pair of steals. Jones had several assists, none bigger than one at the end of the first half.
After Jones blocked a Rams field goal attempt that caused a Tillotson shot-clock violation, SAGU gained possession with only 1.2 seconds remaining. Jones was inbounding 70 feet from the basket. Unable to locate an open teammate, she zipped a long, one bounce pass down the immediate sideline to freshman Jirah Rodriguez (Georgetown, Tx / Georgetown HS). The 5-foot-9 forward turned and launched a 23-foot 3-ball from the side-pocket at the buzzer for a 33-29 lead at intermission.
SAGU Scoring Summary
The game was close throughout, with SAGU building a number of seven-point leads only to see Huston-Tillotson claw back to within a basket. After taking a 5-4 lead on a jumper by Stephanie Hawkins (DeSoto, Tx / DeSoto HS), the Lions never trailed again. But they could never put away a talented, never-say-die Rams squad in maroon and gold.
SAGU used a pair of buckets by Rachel Harris (Joshua, Tx / Bethesda Christian); the first was trey – on a Jones assist, then a 15-foot rainbow following a Gabby Bruner (Peaster, Tx / Peaster HS) helper, and an offensive putback by Jones for a 19-12 advantage with 10:33 left in the first half.
Consecutive baskets by Sierra Hankins (Welch, Ok / Welch HS), both a result of Jefferson passes inside, kept the margin at seven points at 23-16.
Early in the second frame Heather Jefferson (Conroe, Tx / Conroe HS), a senior guard, cashed in a Jones miss with a rebound deuce for a 38-31 edge. Rodriguez banked in another offensive stickback as SAGU's lead remained steady at 40-33. Harris, a senior sniper, triggered another 3-ball on a Jones dime as the Purple Pride held the upper hand at 51-44 with 10:03 to play.
Kevetta Williams and Kandice Smith combined to rally the Rams to within 55-54, with 6:52 left. They would get no closer.
Hankins had her most productive scoring night of the freshman's young career. She scored 10 of her 16 points over the next five minutes, enabling Southwestern to finally quash the upset-minded Lady Rams. Twice she grabbed her own miss and rang-up easy scores. The second gave SAGU their largest lead to that point, 67-57, with less than five minutes showing on the clock.
Jefferson connected with Hankins on a short lob pass to keep the margin at ten, 70-60. Then, with Tillotson strategically fouling her on back-to-back possessions, Hankins stroked all four free throws to effectively clinch the game. The Lady Lions largest lead down the stretch was 13.
The Lions outscored HT by a 23-13 count over the last 6:52, as Jones supported Hankins' ten points with six of her own. Jefferson added four points in that stretch. During that decisive segment of the game, a Hankins steal led to a Jefferson tally, and she also assisted on a Jones layup.
"I was really proud of her," said the SAGU co-captain Jones. "She keeps getting better and is being more aggressive on the boards. Sierra really played well. Not only are we glad to have her on our team, but we need her."
SAGU Player Statistics
SAGU's points, as is their norm, were shared among a cast of contributors who don't seem to care who gets them. Jones tossed in 24, with Hankins and Hawkins netting 16 and 12 respectively. Harris and Jefferson both registered eight, while Rodriguez chipped in seven. Drea Lugo (San Antonio, Tx / Somerset HS), who entered the game in the first half to help break the Rams press, added two, while the starting forward Bruner had the final tally. She took only two shots, focusing on rebounding and defending in the low post instead.
SAGU outboarded HT by a 39-34 count. Bruner, who has led the team throughout the season, was tops with eight caroms. Hankins grabbed seven and Jefferson ripped down five. Rodriguez, Jones and Hawkins each bagged four. Jefferson and Hawkins had five and four assists, respectively.
Lady Rams Performers
Tillotson, who entered the contest with five players averaging double-digits in points per game, had three; Williams 18, Brittney Jones 12 and Smith 11. Porsche Revely, a talented guard sporting an 18 ppg average, was well defended. Her given name, a luxury, high performance vehicle, was well governed by the SAGU defense, preventing her from "revving up" her engine. Revely finished with eight points on three-of-eight shooting. She was 0-for-4 outside the arc.
Smith had game-high honors with 10 boards. Jones racked up a six assists, supported by five from Smith.
The Lady Lions fired in 54% of their field goal attempts, which included another effective three-point accuracy performance; 8-of-17 (47%). The team ranks third in the RRAC in shooting (42%). Beyond the arc they lead the league by knocking down 40% as well as canning 6.8 trifectas per outing. Against HT they connected on 12 of 17 foul shots (70%).
Tillotson was able to shoot just 37% from the court. Their perimeter game failed to get going consistently. The Rams made seven treys, but it required 31 attempts (22%). They were 10-of-15 in free throws.
First of Five Straight Home Games
The game was the first of five successive at home for SAGU. They return to the court on Monday when Our Lady of the Lake University (8-5, 5-3) visits for a 5:30pm clash. The teams split two games last season, with the hosts taking both contests. The Lady Saints crushed Paul Quinn College (3-14, 0-8) on Saturday, 93-57 in Dallas.
SAGU Side Notes
The Lady Lions are 3-0 at home in RRAC action and 7-1 in the Sheaffer Full Life Center in all games.
Their 78 points was their second best of the season after a 79-49 win over Hillsdale College (Okla) in November. It was just the fifth time in 16 games that an opponent topped 60 points – SAGU is 3-2 in those games – and the second most yielded since Southwestern fell at Sterling College (Kan) 69-56, also in November. That tournament loss to the Warriors, now 15-3, was the last time Team Lioness tasted defeat.
SAGU's other losses came against 19th ranked John Brown University (Ark), who are 14-4, and to Southwestern Christian University (Ok). The SCU Eagles are 7-11.