KATY, Texas – To no surprise, Wednesday’s opening-round clash between Central Arkansas and Stephen F. Austin lived up to hype, as both the Sugar Bears and Ladyjacks pushed each other in a physically jarring affair that left each team spent.
Fifth-seeded SFA had just enough left in the tank to complete a 64-59
victory to advance to Thursday’s quarterfinal round against Lamar, while
the prolific career of UCA’s Megan Herbert came to its conclusion.
“When you’re playing Megan Herbert… she just scares you to death,”
Ladyjacks coach Brandon Schneider said.
Herbert, the three-time Southland Conference Player of the Year, finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds in her final game with the Sugar Bears, including 17 in the final 20 minutes as UCA (15-15) erased a 10-point deficit to close to within 60-59 with 1:05 remaining.
“There was a stretch where she tried to take over, but I was proud of how we were able to maintain our composure,” Schneider said.
UCA had two chances to either tie or take their first lead of the contest
in the final minute, but a traveling call wiped out one possession, while
Herbert’s attempt at a game-tying trey glanced off the rim.
The Sugar Bears were their own worst enemy for much of the afternoon, committing 22 turnovers while their four other starters combined for 18
SFA (14-16), which led 26-23 at intermission, opened the second half with a barrage of treys; Tierany Henderson hit consecutive triples, while
Ashlee Mells’ long-distance strike gave the Ladyjacks a 45-35 lead with
11:36 remaining, which proved to be the necessary breathing room to give them another 40 minutes to play this week.
“It helped open up the interior,” Schneider said. “When we’re able to make our 3-point shots, it really makes a big difference.”
Porsha Roberts was the biggest beneficiary of SFA’s success from long
range, scoring a team-high 18 points, while Annette Davis came off the
bench to score six points while also grabbing a team-best eight rebounds.
Roberts, a member of the Southland’s all-defensive squad, was also crucial in slowing down Herbert in the first half, holding her to just four
“SFA has always been one of the hardest teams for me to play,” Herbert
said. “During the first half, they threw all kinds of things at me.”
Herbert, who recorded her 84th career double-double, also finished her
career with the 10th most rebounds in Division I history while becoming
one of only nine women to have scored at least 2,300 points and 1,400
SFA lost both regular season meetings to Lamar, falling 65-50 Jan. 3
before losing a 61-55 overtime clash on Feb. 2.
Stephen F. Austin
Head coach Brandon Schneider
“If you have watched any of our games against Central Arkansas any of the
last three years, today was a high-scoring game. It was a very physical
game today, and the key for us was the turnover margin being plus-10 in
our favor. UCA is so good on the glass, ranking second in the league in
rebounding margin, but we competed hard. When you are playing Megan
Herbert, the three-time conference player of the year, in potentially her
final game, she just scared you to death. There was a stretch in there
where I feel like she tried to take over, and I was impressed with the way
our girls handled the situation and composure and really made some winning
plays down the stretch.”
On SFA’s 3-point shooting…
“Making the 3-pointers gave us some momentum and opened up the interior
for us. It is really obvious when you watch our team that we are trying to
get as many low-post touches as we can, in particularly to our center
(Porsha Roberts), and if we don’t make a few 3-point shots then we don’t
have the inside game. Usually the number is five or six a game to take the
pressure off our inside guys.”
On SFA’s defense…
“I thought our defensive energy and intensity was really good all game
long. UCA is a hard team to guard. Consistently, they are going to have
some runs, especially when you have a player like Herbert on the court.”
On facing Lamar…
“We are going from one great player in Megan Herbert to another in Kalis
Loyd. Loyd is really difficult to defend. Lamar is where they are in
getting a bye because of their pressure defense, and we really struggled
against that in Beaumont. Between now and 1:30 p.m. tomorrow, our primary
focus will be ball security.”
Stephen F. Austin sophomore center Porsha Roberts
On guarding Megan Herbert…
“I really respect Megan Herbert. She is a good player and really hard to
defend. But our preparation led up to the way I played today.”
Stephen F. Austin sophomore forward Tierany Henderson
On SFA’s 3-point shooting…
“We practice all the time on our 3-point shooting. It is just a matter of
us getting up and keeping the score up. Once we had the momentum going, we
had to just keep pushing for the team.”
Head coach Sandra Rushing
“I am very proud of my team and I am very proud of this young lady (Megan
Herbert). We just made some mistakes down the stretch and turned the ball
over quite a few times. SFA had 24 points off of turnovers and 26 points
in the paint and that is very hard to overcome. Stephen F. Austin is a
tremendous team and I have just been waiting for them to breakout. They
are very physical and very well coached. We got beat by a very good
On SFA’s offense…
“We knew that they could shoot it. We did not communicate very well on
screens. SFA can put it on the floor and pull up from three. They are a
very well-rounded and balanced team.”
On Megan Herbert…
“I am very lucky and happy to have the opportunity to coach a tremendous
athlete. Not only is she a great basketball player but she is also a great
person. It has been great. How many coaches get the opportunity to do that
in their first year?”
Central Arkansas senior forward Megan Herbert
On her historic career in the Southland Conference…
“When I came to Central Arkansas my freshman year, all what we wanted to
do was to build the program up. Having the mentality of just wanting to go
out and win and put UCA on the map is just how I got all the records.
Winning the player of the years and awards just came along with me trying
to build up this program and putting UCA’s women’s basketball on the map
in Division I. It was such a great opportunity for me. Now that it’s over,
I don’t know what to say. It is truly amazing.”
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