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Opportunity eludes MC’s Lady Chocs

CLINTON — Mississippi College women’s basketball coach PaulAllen Duke shook his head in disbelief when he reviewed a sheet offinal statistics. His Lady Choctaws had just lost 52-49 to HowardPayne University in the opening round of the American SouthwestConference Tournament in A.E. Wood Coliseum.

“If you would have told me that Howard Payne would shoot 35percent from the floor and still beat us, I never would havebelieved it,” said Duke. The Lady Yellow Jackets used some surprise3-point shooting and a strong defense to accomplish their task andland a berth in in Saturday’s ASC championship game oppositeHardin-Simmons University.

The Lady Chocs end their season at 22-4 and can only dream ofwhat might of been. Their final hope at tying the game fell shortas playmaker Ayme Beeson launched an off-balance trey which hit thefront of the rim as time expired.

“We were looking for 3-point shooters at the end,” said Duke.”The last minute and 30 (seconds) they gave us every opportunity”Duke’s team missed 3 field goal attempts in the final 18seconds.

The Lady Jackets (20-6), runners=up to Hardin-Simmons in the ASCWest, realized their first-ever 20-win season Friday night.Third-year head coach Chris Kielsmeier was delighted with histeam’s triumph.

“This group of girls works hard,” said Kielsmeier. “This is ourfirst 20-win season and our first tournament victory.”

Kielsmeier said his game plan was to slow down Lacey Palomarez,MC’s high-scoring sophomore forward from Brookhaven (Enterprise).Palomarez, averaging 20.1 points and 7.4 rebounds per game, washeld to 15 points and 11 rebounds.

“Howard Payne played good,” said Palomarez. “They scored when itwas crucial and we didn’t.”

Palomarez led her team’s point production but the rest of theLady Chocs shot poorly. As a team, they made just 27 percent. Bothteam had 40 rebounds.

Laurie Ann Davis, a redshirt junior forward from Natchez whoplayed at Co-Lin, scored 7 points for MC.

“(Lady Jackets) were very aggressive but I think we are betterthan them,” said Davis. “We’ll get them next year.”

This was the fourth straight 20-win season for MC. They have aslim hope of receiving an at-large invitation from the NCAADivision III Tournament. The ASC champion earns an automaticbid.

Nichole Salzman, a 5-11 senior forward from Spring, Texas, ledthe Lady Yellow Jackets with 17 points and 8 rebounds. LindseyCantrell, a 5-10 senior from Bowie, Texas, tossed in 12 points andwas 2-for-2 from 3-point land.

Kielsmeier saw his team make 7 of 17 treys for the game. “Eightypercent of the time we struggle making threes. Twenty percent ofthe time we do fill it up.”

Earlier in the season, Kielsmeier’s team had beaten MC 69-54 atClinton.