Kats fall to UCA in SLC Tournament

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KATY – Central Arkansas’ Kamry Orr played Thursday’s Southland Conference women’s basketball tournament opener in such a manner that Sam Houston State was unable to overcome.

Orr scored a game-high 29 points to help the No. 8 Sugar Bears pull off a 76-71 upset over the No. 5 Bearkats at Merrell Center, snapping the team’s five-game losing streak. The victory means UCA will now face. No. 4 Abilene Christian at 11 a.m. CT on Friday in the first of two second-round games.

“They just played hard,” said UCA coach Sandra Rushing. “We didn’t play all the time, but they played hard and never quit.”

“I just wanted to literally do everything I could to keep our team advancing,” said Orr, who added 13 rebounds, seven steals and five assists in 36 minutes of play.

“Kam is a ‘follow as I do’ person,” said freshman Alana Canady, who scored 10 points and added a pair of rebounds. “She rallies us. When we see her attacking the basket, we want to attack, too. When we see her rebound, we’re going to rebound, too.”

Orr’s intensity on the defensive end helped pay off for the Sugar Bears, who scored 25 points off 18 Bearkats’ turnovers.

UCA (12-17) finally pulled away in a spirited contest that saw eight ties and five lead changes when Maddie Goodner’s two free throws gave them a 70-63 lead with 2:03 left. Still, the Sugar Bears had to survive one last run from the Bearkats (16-13), who drew to 72-70 on a Jennifer Oramas 3-pointer with 52 seconds left.

Orr’s free throws with 34 seconds remaining proved to be the winning margin as the UCA defense denied any chance of a Sam Houston State miracle by forcing a pair of missed treys. It was their ability to silence the Bearkats’ long range game that helped fuel the victory, as they held them to 3-for-16 shooting beyond the arc in the final three quarters after allowing Sam Houston State to connect on four of their first five 3-pointers in the opening 10 minutes.

“Coach got on us a little bit, so we picked up the defense,” said Canaday.

The Sugar Bears also received a huge boost from Hannah Langhi, who scored 12 points and added five rebounds in 33 minutes off the bench despite spending much of Wednesday in bed due to strep throat.

The Bearkats put daylight between themselves and the Sugar Bears when they used a 9-0 run early in the third quarter to take a 47-40 lead at the 6:15 mark. Amber Leggett capped the spurt when she scored off an Oramas assist that led to a Central Arkansas time out.

Orr would not let the Sugar Bears go quietly, putting the bulk of the offense on her shoulders. The second team All-Southland guard knocked down a trey that pushed UCA within 53-49 before a pair of Alana Canady free throws cut the deficit to 53-51 with a minute to go in the third.

Both teams kept the fans entertained in an exciting first half that saw seven ties and three lead changes. Despite being outrebounded and outshot for much of the first 20 minutes, UCA was able to stay in the game because of its ability to convert Sam Houston State miscues into baskets, turning 12 SHSU turnovers into 17 points.

Sam Houston State was also hampered by the loss of starters Dominque Maxwell and Southland Conference Newcomer of the Year Jaylonn Walker, both of whom fouled out in the fourth quarter. UCA’s constant forays to the basket led to them going 8-for-11 from the line in the final 10 minutes and 20-for-32 overall.

Walker was limited to just 3-for-12 shooting and finished with 12 points and three rebounds.

“We played hard, but I thought we let some possessions get away from us,” said Sam Houston State’s Ravon Justice, the conference’s Coach of the Year. “We didn’t stop fighting, but we had too many defensive breakdowns to a well-coached team.”

NOTES
- The Bearkats closed the season with 16-13 record, the most wins for the program since the team put up 18 victories in the 2012-13 season.
- SHSU put four players in double figure scoring, including Jenniffer Oramas (21), Amber Leggett (15), Lydia Baxter (15) and Jaylonn Walker.
- Along with her 15 points, Baxter had 12 rebounds, giving her 11 double-doubles this season.
- SHSU four of its first five 3-point baskets of the game, but then missed 12 of its next 14 until a 3-pointer by Oramas late in the fourth quarter.
- The Kats committed 18 turnovers in the game, leading to a 25-9 advantage for the Sugar Bears in points off turnovers.