HUNTSVILLE – Sam Houston State took a lead but could not overcome a strong second quarter from McNeese, falling 61-58 from the Cowgirls in the final game of the season at Bernard G. Johnson Coliseum on Thursday.
The McNeese lead was trimmed to three with under a minute remaining as Lydia Baxter converted a three-point play. The Kats hit 4-of-5 buckets down the stretch as well as a pair of free throws from Baxter to put the deficit back to three with 20.3 seconds left.
After an untimely foul against McNeese, Jenniffer Oramas sunk two free throws, cutting the deficit to two with under five seconds left. The Kats fouled and the Cowgirls hit just 1-of-2 but a half-court shot from Baxter bounced off the backboard.
Sam Houston closes out its season on Saturday at Stephen F. Austin. Tipoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. from Nacogdoches. The game will be the final for seniors Jasmine McCants and Morghen Day, who have played in a combined 170 games.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Sam Houston was hot from behind the arc early as Day drilled her first three-point on the first possession and added another less than four minutes later to give the Bearkats a 8-4 lead. Oramas, who entered the game fourth in the league in 3-point field goal percentage, gave the Bearkats a two-point advantage courtesy of a trey with four minutes to play in the first.
The Kats took a one-point edge into the second. After McNeese took an early second-quarter lead, McCants drilled back-to-back jumpers to put the Bearkats back up. Oramas added her second 3-pointer with 3:13 left to put Sam Houston back up three.
The Cowgirls used a 10-0 run to close out the first half, holding Sam Houston scoreless over the final 3:13 entering the break. Victoria Rachal and Dede Sheppard combined for a pair of jumpers each down the stretch to stretch the lead to 30-23 at intermission.
McNeese scored seven of 10 points to begin the third and pushed its lead to double-digits as Amber Donnes drilled a 3-pointer to make it 37-26 in favor of the Cowgirls. With the deficit still at 11 for Sam Houston with 5:07 in the frame, the Kats responded.
Sam Houston went on a 6-0 run, trimming the lead to five as Baxter hit a jumper and pair of free throws and Oramas made a jumper of her own. Rachal again hit from downtown and the Cowgirls took a seven-point lead into the fourth.
The Bearkats used a 7-0 run in the fourth, holding the Cowgirls without a point over 2:14, forcing a McNeese timeout while trimming the lead to 53-49. After a McNeese timeout, the Kats brought it down to three as Oramas hit 1-of-2 from the charity stripe.
The Cowgirls finally emerged from their drought, using a jumper from Rachal to push the lead back to five before forcing a stop on the defensive end with under four minutes left. Sheppard hit the Cowgirls second-straight shot for a seven-point advantage and forced the Kats’ 14th turnover.
PLAYERS OF THE GAME
Sam Houston’s Lydia Baxter set a career-high in points with 18 on 7-of-16 shooting. The sophomore did most of her damage at the free throw line, despite entering at a .560 tilt from the charity stripe. Baxter converted 10-of-13 at the charity stripe. Baxter added a team-best seven boards.
Jenniffer Oramas matched a season high with 20 points. The freshman did so on 7-of-16 shooting including a pair of 3-pointers, meeting her best point total since Jan. 28 against Southeastern Louisiana.
Senior Morghen Day on the loss to McNeese…
“When we got down, we just had to take it play by play. We just had to get up. This team knows we have to come out strong. We knew we shouldn’t been down by that much at half. I wouldn’t change my career here for anything. It’s been an experience.”
Senior Jasmine McCants on the last game at the Coliseum…
“Playing basketball for four years, I don’t really get nervous any more. I just know I need to go out there and do what I have to for my team. Anything can happen. That was the mindset at half. We knew we could turn the game around. I have seen a lot of growth from our freshmen. I have seen a lot of good things.”
Head coach Brenda Welch-Nichols on the game…
“I am so proud of the effort of our team. They never quit. That is one thing about this whole year is that this team never quits. We keep fighting. I think we’ve matured all the way around. We have a very young team that is leading us. The thing I like most is they are playing like a team that keeps fighting. A lot of that comes from Morghen Day and Jasmine McCants.”
“Mac came on at the end of last year. She continues to keep fighting. When she is on, it’s going to be a great night. That is the energy she brings. It’s been fun the last two years. Morghen Day, I have had for four years. She’s gotten a lot of opportunities to play with some great kids. They have been like the mommas of this team.”