Tenacious Bearkats down SFA 78-70, advance on

Published: Mar. 11, 2016 at 9:05 PM CST
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In its two previous matchups against rival Stephen F. Austin, the Sam Houston women’s basketball team fell victim to slow starts. In the second round of the Southland Conference Women’s Basketball Tournament, when it mattered most, they responded.

After being down 7-2 less than three minutes in, Sam Houston outscored the Ladyjacks 39-20 the remainder of the first half and survived a third quarter surge to defeat SFA, 78-70, at the Merrell Center on Friday afternoon.

Sam Houston (13-17) was tenacious inside, outrebounding the Ladyjacks, 42-27, led by 13 from Angela Beadle, who was one of four Bearkats in double-digits with 15 points. She also added her 1,000th career rebound and has 1,003. The Kats shot 49 percent from the field, the fourth-best mark of the season.

“I am very excited for Beadle,” Sam Houston head coach Brenda Welch-Nichols said. “At the end of the game, we leaned in to each other and said, ‘way overdue.’ There are a lot of great things that this game means to us. First of all, it’s a big rivalry, and second of all, we were able to advance to the next round. These ladies work hard and I am ecstatic.”

After having just three first-half points, Shernise Robertson exploded for 16 in the second half, including 11 in the fourth quarter, to lead the way. The senior accounted for eight of the Kats nine points between the 9:13 and 6:07 mark in the final frame, helping stave off the SFA rally.

“As the second half came along, it felt like the tide was shifting,” Welch-Nichols said. “I asked Shernise Robertson if she needed a break and she kept saying, ‘coach, you’re not taking me out of this game.’ These girls have come together. This is a huge win for our school.”

While the Bearkats were tough on the boards, not allowing a second-chance SFA point in the first half, the difference may have come at the free throw line. The Kats went 23-of-29 from the charity stripe including 7-of-11 when it matters most in the fourth.

“You can win games from the line and this definitely shows that,” Welch-Nichols said. “We say that if you get to the line, you can win a ball game. We aren’t doing anything fancy. I keep telling them to keep it simple and do what has brought us to this point.”

After leading 41-27 at the break, including hitting 15-of-16 free throws, Sam Houston was faced with staving off the league’s leading field goal shooting team. The Ladyjacks outscored the Kats 13-2 to begin the third quarter, taking a one-point lead with 3:57 left in the frame, on a jumper from Taylor Ross, who led all scorers with 32 points.

The lead was the first for SFA since the 4:54 mark in the first quarter, but it would also be the last. Moments later, Kamry Orr, who finished with 17 points, hit a three-pointer and the freshman added another bucket with 32 seconds remaining to send Sam Houston into the fourth with a 55-49 lead.

“We needed to buckle down on defense,” Welch-Nichols said. “We keep saying we’ve got to be a stronger defensive team. They are confident with each other and are pulling together. We all have one goal in mind. It’s fun when they are all on the same page.”

The Bearkats’ Laurynn McGowen finished with 13 points, with 10 coming in the first half, to help the Kats out to the big break. Jasmine McCants also offered a big presence underneath, grabbing 10 rebounds while scoring six points and finishing a perfect 4-of-4 at the line.

The victory marks the first time in team history, Sam Houston has won two games at the Southland Conference Tournament. Against its first two opponents – Nicholls and Stephen F. Austin – the Kats were a combined 0-3 during the regular season.

Sam Houston takes on No. 2 seed Northwestern State on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. on ESPN3. The Demons (19-10 overall) downed the Bearkats 69-49 in Natchitoches, La., in the squad’s second conference game on Jan. 4. Despite the result, the Kats believe much has changed since that time.

“We played them so early in the season that we did not play a good game,” Welch-Nichols said. “We were embarrassed after that we are really excited about playing them. It was the same thing with Nicholls when we played them early. We just have to go out and play our game.”