HAPPY ENDING: Seniors lead SAGU win, 57-46
Foursome combines for 47 pts at NCCAA Nat'ls
Harris, Hawkins, Jefferson, Jones put finishing touches on Lady Lion careers
WINONA LAKE, Indiana -- Capping an outstanding four year run, the Southwestern Assemblies of God University women's basketball team took third place in the country at the NCCAA Nationals with a 57-46 triumph over Emmanuel College on Saturday.
Seniors Rachel Harris (Joshua, Tx / Bethesda Christian), Stephanie Hawkins (DeSoto, Tx / DeSoto HS), Heather Jefferson (Conroe, Tx / Conroe HS) and Chelsea Jones (San Antonio, Tx / Cornerstone Christian) scored all but ten of the Lady Lions points as SAGU led from start to finish in the Consolation of the National Christian College Athletic Association's eight-team field. The event was held at the Orthopaedic Capital Center on the campus of Grace College.
It was the final game and victory for the senior foursome who led the most productive four-year run in the history of Southwestern basketball. They were 6-24 as freshmen, then rolled to 24-8, 25-8 and 23-13 records in their final three seasons for a 78-53 mark that included SAGU's only berth in the NAIA national tourney in 2010, a pair of second place finishes in the Red River Athletic Conference, and this year's third place finale.
Benefits of NAIA and NCCAA affiliations
With dual memberships in both the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA - Division I) and the NCCAA (Div. I), Southwestern is able to compete in two large, respected organizations. Each alliance represents standards that SAGU athletics embody. Together with inclusion in the RRAC, the Lions have multiple options for the post-season.
Following a thirty game regular season the Lady Lions were able to play in two RRAC tournament games and four in the NCCAA. Athletes also are eligible in each for individual honors.
Taking Care of Business
After losing on Friday as the #1 seed, the Lady Lions were eager to leave their mark before departing the Hoosier State. They did. Going up against the school that Head Coach Arlon Beadles served prior to SAGU, the Purple Pride "took care of business," as Harris said they would.
Flying out of the blocks like sprinters, Southwestern grabbed a 15-5 lead after seven minutes of play. Jones hit her first two shots, each of them from outside the arc, and then Hawkins and Gabby Bruner (Peaster, Tx / Peaster HS) made baskets before Hawkins set up a Harris triple. A deuce by Jones allowed the squad to set the pace of the game, which they controlled until the final horn.
Team Lioness pushed their lead to 14 on two occasions, the first coming at 21-7. The closest Emmanuel came to catching up was at 25-21, before SAGU took a 29-22 advantage at the interlude. Jones scored and Harris added a pair of foul shots to secure the lead by recess.
SAGU Defense Stymies Emmanuel
SAGU's constrictor-like zone defense squeezed the EC Lions throughout the second half. They made 8-of-27 (29%) in the first half. They could do no better when they desperately needed offense down the stretch. Southwestern stifled their attack, forcing 21 misses in their 30 (second half) tries to hold them to .298 for the game. Traps from their zone packages helped coerce 24 giveaways that kept the visitors from establishing offensive rhythm.
Unable to consistently get in the paint for high percentage shots, Emmanuel was left to trying their luck beyond the arc. Ranking 95th in the nation in three-point accuracy, they were not beaming with confidence. Making only 5-of-29 didn't help much. Neither did connecting on just 7-of-15 attempts.
What kept Emmanuel in the game was a stellar performance on the boards, where they held a solid 39-28, including a 16-3 stranglehold on the offensive glass. Second chance baskets permitted them to stay within striking distance.
Catalyst Cooled by Ankle Injury
A scary moment for Southwestern came midway through the second half when Jones landed badly on her right ankle. She sat out almost ten minutes in a game that was still within reach for EC. Not to worry, SAGU's Harris was more than up to the task. She didn't miss a shot or a foul shot in 24 minutes.
SAGU, sans Jones, holds off EC with D and Jefferson 'three'
The blue-clad Lions rallied from a 45-33 deficit with a 7-0 run over the next 5:48. Emmanuel's defense blanked SAGU while drawing to within five points. Southwestern missed five shots and made four turnovers during that stretch of the game. EC failed to fully capitalize during that golden opportunity, sinking only three-of-nine shots.
Jefferson chose a wonderful time to put the wraps on her career. After Harris snared a defensive rebound, she got the outlet pass to the Starship, who drained a pull-up three-pointer for a 48-40 margin at the 3:40 mark. Hawkins added a layup to push the lead to 51-42 at 2:08, and Southwestern iced the game by swishing 6-of-6 free throws (two apiece by Harris, Rodriguez and Hawkins) in the closing minute to insure the happy ending.
SAGU's defense permitted Emmanuel to net two of eight shots in the final 4:04.
SAGU Team Totes
Southwestern shot 41% for the game, as well as seven three-point baskets and a 14-of-17 free throw effort. Losing the battle of the boards and committing 20 turnovers prevented them from breaking away from Emmanuel, whose campus is in Franklin Springs, Georgia (80 miles northeast of Atlanta).
Jones was good on 7-of-11 shots and 3-of-5 from downtown in leading the Lady Lions with a game-high 19 points. She had four more steals, giving her 15 in the three games. Harris made all three of her field goal attempts, including two treys and all five FT's to finish with 13 points. The 5'3 sparkplug registered four rebounds and collected three steals. It was fifth double-figure game this season.
Hawkins, who was the team's lone rep on the All-Tournament Team, tossed in 11 points, and dished out a game-high five assists. Hawkeye, who averaged 15 ppg during the RRAC tourney, poured in 57 in Indiana for a three game average of 19.0.
Jefferson's stat-line saw her reel in five boards, net four points and give four helpers. She also picked pockets three times. Sierra Hankins (Welch, Ok / Welch HS) added four points and three caroms. Bruner's night included four points and four rebounds. Rodriguez scored two points, rip down five rebounds and grab three takeaways.
Tournament Point Totals
Hawkins 57, Jones 43, Jefferson 23, Rodriguez 21, Harris 18, Hankins 8, Bruner 7, Lugo 3, McDowell 2, Giles 2
First Half Summary
After getting off to leads of 10-2 and 15-5, SAGU went on an 8-4 run on hoops by Hawkins, a Jones layup that begun with a Hawkins steal, a power bucket from Hankins and solo FT by Bruner and Jefferson. The 23-9 lead came 6:36 left in the half. Emmanuel closed the stanza by outscoring Team Purp by 13-6, with SAGU's points coming on a slashing drive by Jones and another after an assist from Hawkins. Harris came down with a rebound of a last second shot by the Georgians, was fouled, and sank a pair from the charity stripe with 0:20 to go.
Southwestern hit 42% from the field, and was 4-of-6 beyond the arc, despite being outboarded, 22-12. SAGU's Jungle Kings made nine turnovers and forced 16 in the opening 20-minute period. Jones led all scorers with 14 by intermission.
Jones was taken to a local hospital for observation and x-rays following the game. The results indicated no breaks, which some feared. The badly sprained foot didn't keep her from traveling home with her teammates aboard the club's charter bus ride home. After an overnight stay in the St. Louis area, the Lady Lions are expected back in Waxahachie Sunday evening.
A review of the 2010-11 season will be posted in April. It will include a list of player awards from the RRAC, NAIA and NCCAA. Fans should check the SAGU Athletics site during the off-season for news regarding the new recruiting class.
The SAGU website is undergoing another major change in design, layout and function. During a period of two weeks, no photos or graphics have been allowed to be uploaded with our articles. Our apologies, especially during such a moment in the season. Watch for a return in the near future.
Action Photos and DVD's available
Nearly 150 action photographs are available for purchase of the three games the Lady Lions have played in Indiana. DVD's of each are also accessible for purchase. This will take you to all of the photo galleries form the NCCAA tournament: http://photos.grace.edu/f346412929
NCCAA Schedule and Results
March 17, Thursday
#2 Bethel College, Ind 73-70 (OT) #7 Mid-America Christian, Okla
#3 Emmanuel College, Ga 69-55 #6 Trinity International, Ill
#1 Southwestern Assemblies, Tx 74-63 #8 King College, Tenn
#4 Roberts Wesleyan, NY 67-60 (OT) #5 Grace College, Ind
March 18, Friday
#7 Mid-America Christian 72-58 #6 Trinity Int'l
#5 Grace College 67-55 #8 King College
#2 Bethel College 54-48 #3 Emmanuel College
#4 Roberts Wesleyan 66-51 Southwestern Assemblies
March 19, Saturday
7th Place: #8 King 75-73 #6 Trinity Int'l
5th Place: #7 MACU 69-63 #5 Grace
3rd Place: #1 SAGU 57-46 #3 Emmanuel
1st Place: #2 Bethel College 80-69 #4 Roberts Wesleyan