“It Was Fun” – Generals pull stunner in NAIA Women’s Basketball Tournament debut
Billings, Mont. – The LSUA women’s basketball team picked a good day to have perhaps its best all-around performance of the season, riding a dominant day on the inside as the Generals stunned the #8 Westmont Warriors 70-59 Wednesday afternoon at the first round of the NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball National Championship Tournament at Rimrock Auto Arena.
Westmont, the 2-seed in the tournament’s Naismith Bracket, jumped out quick on LSUA to start the contest as the Warriors quickly amassed an 8-2 lead following an old-fashioned three-point play by Kaitlin Larson with 5:32 left in the first period. LSUA, the Naismith Bracket’s 7-seed, wouldn’t let the Warriors get away, answering with a 6-1 run to get the deficit down to just a single point as Aja Law found her fellow forward, E’Layzha Bates, for a lay-up to make it 9-8 Warriors as the clock ticked under three minutes remaining in the first quarter. Westmont would build their lead back up to as much as five over the rest of the period, eventually holding a 17-13 lead when the period came to a close.
The seeds for the upset were posted in the second quarter as the Generals held Westmont to just nine points in the quarter. LSUA couldn’t have asked for a better start as Courtney Dawsey drained back-to-back three-pointers to give the Generals their first national tournament lead at 19-17 just one minute into the second quarter. Westmont responded with their own three-pointer to retake the lead, but when Dawsey hit a pair of free throws with 7:41 left in period, the lead switched hands for the final time as LSUA took a 21-20 advantage and wouldn’t give it up for the rest of the contest. Those free throws kicked off a 6-0 LSUA run as Aja Law made back-to-back buckets to put the Generals up 25-20 with just less than six minutes left before halftime. Following a quick trade of buckets, the Warriors rattled off four straight points to cut the LSUA lead down to just one point, but Ciera Daniels scored the final bucket of the half to give the Generals a 29-26 lead at the break.
LSUA really put the upset in motion in the third quarter. After the two teams traded three-pointers to open the second half, Kelsey Thaxton popped open and drained a three-pointer of her own to send the Generals on 14-1 run to give LSUA the largest lead of the game for either team as Brittany Hall whipped a pass in to Tamia Hewitt for an easy lay-up and a 46-30 lead with just less than three minutes remaining in the quarter. However, Westmont wouldn’t go away quietly, going on a 10-0 run to get back within six off of a pair of free throws by Stefanie Berberabe to make it 46-40 LSUA with just four seconds left. The Generals got a big momentum shot at the buzzer as Brittany Hall ran up the court and put up a three-pointer just before the buzzer that banked off the glass and went into the net to give the Generals a 49-40 lead heading to the final period.
Given the momentum of the buzzer beater at the end of the quarter, LSUA got the lead back up into double figures as Aja Law completed an and-one opportunity to make the score 52-42 early in the fourth quarter. With LSUA holding 56-46 lead, the Warriors rattled off eight of the next ten points to get back within just two possessions as Berberabe got to the rim and scored with 5:30 remaining to make it 58-54 LSUA. But Courtney Dawsey came back on the ensuing possession and scored while being fouled, hitting the free throw, to put LSUA back up seven points. The two teams traded buckets over the next few minutes, but when Berberabe scored with 1:30 left to make it 63-58 LSUA, the Generals locked down defensively for the remainder of the contest, closing the game scoring seven of the final eight points for the game’s final score.
“That was fun,” said LSUA head coach Bob Austin. “We had a little fun once we got up here and that really helped loosen the team up, and I felt we had two good days of practice. The ladies really bought into assistant coach Chris Johnson’s gameplan, and played their roles really well. I can’t say enough about the play of Aja Law. She got herself into good positions to receive passes and made some tough shots, playing well above her freshman status. E’Layzha Bates was a monster on the boards, and the guards played within themselves, taking quality shots all game against a tough defensive team. I also can’t say enough about our defensive efforts. Westmont is a patient offensive team, and we stayed on our assignments for the most part. This was really a complete team win. We get to enjoy a day off tomorrow, but have to be ready for another tough game early on Friday.”
Aja Law was a force all day for LSUA, leading all scorers with a career high 27 points on 11 of 16 shooting while also converting on all five of her free throw attempts. Law also grabbed six rebounds, dished out three assists, had two steals, and blocked one shot. Courtney Dawsey hit two three-pointers and was seven of nine at the charity stripe on her way to 15 points along with five assists. E’Layzha Bates made both shots she took while also grabbing a career high 12 rebounds to go with two blocked shots. Brittany Hall completed the contest with a game-high seven assists.
The Generals hit 52.0% in the contest, hitting 26 of their 50 shots in the contest. LSUA was also effective from deep, taking only 14 three-point attempts and hitting six of them for a 42.9% average. At the free throw line, the Generals were 12 of 15 for 80.0% in the game, including several during the closing moments to help LSUA pull away late. #8 Westmont (24-8) was held to just 33.9% shooting as a team, hitting 19 of their 56 shots in the contest, including just 23.8% from deep. The Warriors also hit on 64.0% of their free throw attempts, hitting 16 of 25 from the charity stripe. LSUA outrebounded the Warriors 40-30, and got more points in the paint than Westmont, 34-26.
LSUA (22-7), who received votes in the final NAIA Top 25 Coaches’ Poll, now advance to Friday’s second round contest to take on #23 Lewis-Clark State for a spot in the quarterfinals. Tip-off against the sixth-seeded Warriors (21-11) is set for 10:45 A.M. MDT, 11:45 A.M. CDT in the Rimrock Auto Arena.
- < PREV Louisiana High School Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame Ceremony set for Friday night in Bossier City
- NEXT > No. 2 LSUA Generals draw 1-seed, learn NAIA Tournament path