Generals’ season ends in NAIA Women’s Tournament Second Round

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Billings, Mont. – The LSUA women’s basketball team had its national tournament run last longer than probably most thought it would, but it came to an end too early for the Generals.

LSUA’s hopes to continue its best season in program history were dashed in the second round of the NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball National Championship Tournament as a three-pointer at the final buzzer fell off the mark in a 69-66 loss to the Lewis-Clark State Warriors Friday afternoon at the Rimrock Auto Arena.

The Generals, the seven-seed in the tournament’s Naismith bracket, led for much of a tight first quarter as neither team opened any breathing room from the other during the period. LSUA took the largest lead in the quarter with just more than two minutes remaining in the period as Kelsey Thaxton hit drained a three-pointer while being fouled, completing the four-point play, which would not be her only one of the day, to put the Generals up 18-14.

However, Lewis-Clark State, the Naismith bracket’s six-seed, would finish the period on a 6-0 run as a pair of Cali Moscrip free throws gave the Warriors a 20-18 lead after one period of play.

LSUA made its move to try to open the game up in the second quarter, opening the period on a 15-4 run over the first seven-plus minutes of the period to take the largest lead of the game for either team as another Thaxton three made the score 33-24 Generals with 2:45 left before halftime. The Warriors would eventually cut that lead down to as little as five before LSUA eventually ended up taking a six point lead into the halftime locker room, 37-31.

However, the Generals’ luck started to turn in the third quarter. After an Aja Law put back gave LSUA a 42-35 lead with 8:20 left in the period, the Warriors went on a 7-0 run to tie the game up as an Abbie Johnson lay-up made it 42-42. LSUA retook the lead on the next possession when Law split a pair of free throws, but would lose it for the first time since the first possession of the second quarter on Lewis-Clark State’s next possession as Hannah Burland made both of her free throw opportunities to make it 44-43 Warriors.

Lewis-Clark State would continue its run until it reached a five point advantage for the Warriors on a couple of Peyton Souvenir free throws that capped the run at 16-4 and made the score 51-46 Warriors. With Lewis-Clark State up 53-48, Kelsey Thaxton would be fouled as she buried yet another three-pointer and complete her second four-point play on the day to cut the Warrior lead down to just 53-52. The Warriors would take a 55-52 lead to the final ten minutes of play.

Aja law pulled LSUA back within a point to start the fourth quarter as she got the period’s first bucket to make it 55-54 Warriors. Lewis-Clark State eventually pushed the lead back up to five points on a Jossilyn Blackman bucket to make it 59-54. With LCSC up 61-57, Law would put back her own miss, and then following a defensive stop, the Generals would retake the lead as Courtney Dawsey drained the straight away three to make it 62-61 LSUA with four minutes left. But that would be LSUA’s last lead as the Warriors converted a three-point plays on their next two possessions sandwiched around a LSUA miss as Lewis-Clark State re-opened a five point lead.

The Generals gave themselves a chance to force overtime late by getting two free throws from Kelsey Thaxton and then got a stop and rebound, however, LSUA’s hopes for another upset were dashed as Dawsey’s three-point attempt at the buzzer bounced off the side of the rim and fell away to end LSUA’s season.

“I couldn’t be prouder of how this team fought and battled,” said LSUA head coach Bob Austin. “I know the girls are disappointed with how this game ended, but they should hold their head high because they achieved so much this season. Our three seniors; E’Layzha [Bates], Natalie [Alaniz], and Alexis [Harris], leave our program at the highest point we’ve ever reached and we’re a lot better team having had them as Generals, and we will miss them greatly. But we have a lot of young players who had a great experience up here in Billings and learned a lot about how to win in this tournament, and I know they are already itching to get back to work so we can get back here next year and make an even deeper run. You have to like our outlook when you realize our two leading scorers in both games are freshmen this season.”

Kelsey Thaxton found the range on Friday, hitting six three pointers in the contest along with four free throws to finish as the game high scorer with 22 points. She also grabbed four rebounds, had two assists and a steal. Two days after setting a new career high in points, Aja Law tallied her first career postseason double-double, and fourth of the season, with 17 points and ten rebounds. Courtney Dawsey was LSUA’s final double figure scorer with 11 points, five rebounds, three assists, and two steals.

After showcasing the interior game in the first round, LSUA went with the perimeter game against Lewis-Clark State (22-11), hitting 34.8% of their shots from the field, including nine made three-pointers. Getting to the free throw line was a chore for the Generals, but when they got there, they converted, hitting nine of 11 at the charity stripe. The Warriors ended the game hitting 43.6% of their shots, and hit only two of their 15 attempts from long range. However, Lewis-Clark State took advantage of the interior, outscoring the Generals by ten points in the paint and got sent to the free throw line nine more times than LSUA, where the Warriors made ten more free throws than the Generals did.

LSUA ends its season with a 22-8 record, breaking the program records for most overall wins and most wins in conference play, with 14. The Generals also broke into the NAIA Top 25 for the first time in program history this season, though they were just on the outside among those receiving votes when the final poll came out last week. Among other firsts LSUA accomplished this season was a first top two finish in the RRAC and bye in the conference tournament, and of course the program’s first berth into the NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball National Championship Tournament, and first national tournament win, which the Generals got on Wednesday with the 70-59 first round win over #8 Westmont.

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