Lady Bears clip Pearl River and secure first ever-trip to NJCAA

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Southwest Lady Bears’ magical season will continue. A never-say-die attitude, combined with a little luck, helped the team to a historic 59-58 win over Pearl River Friday afternoon in the semi-finals of the NJCAA Region 23 tournament at Mississippi College. The win was the first in three tries for the Lady Bears against Pearl River this season.

The win moved the Lady Bears (21-7) into the tournament championship tonight against Baton Rouge Community College. In addition, they made school history by earning the first-ever berth for a Southwest basketball team in the upcoming NJCAA national championship tournament in Salina, Kans.

Back-to-back three pointers by Courtney Epting and April Levy and a Tee Myers bucket helped Southwest storm out to an 8-0 lead Friday with 17:12 left in the first half. But, the Lady Wildcats (18-7) slowly worked their way back, pulling to within one point, 14-13, on Deandra Darjean’s jumper with 10:43 on the clock.

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Started by Myers’ layup and capped by a Littlepage jumper, the Lady Bears then went on an 11-0 tear and pushed their lead up to12 points, 25-13, with 5:49 on the clock. That would just about be it for the Lady Bears in the first half as Pearl River closed out the final minutes with a 12-2 run to draw back to within two points at the half, 27-25.

Maintaining their momentum, the Lady Wildcats outscored Southwest 14-4 in the first 4:23 of the second half and they took an eight-point lead, 39-31, on Kalisha Washington’s old-fashioned three-point play.

Jump starting their offense, the Lady Bears then roared back to life. With buckets from Elayne Robinson and Littlepage serving as bookends, they outscored the Lady Wildcats 12-2 over the next 4:32 to take a 43-41 lead.

Fans then saw four ties and five lead changes the rest of the way. With the game knotted at 55-55 and 3:22 to play, Southwest went up 57-55 on a pair of Littlepage free throws. A Darjean basket and free throw then put the Lady Wildcats up 58-57 with 1:26 to go.

With time winding down, Myers was fouled and went to the free throw line. Calmly sinking both shots, she put the Lady Bears up 59-58 with 0:39 to play. Lady Luck then made her appearance in the game as Pearl River’s Essence Pulliam missed two free throws. Getting the rebound after the second miss, the Lady Wildcats had two close shots at a win in the final seconds but were unable to connect on either and the Lady Bears were able to escape with the win.

“We really had to fight through some adversity today,” said Southwest head coach Brent Harris speaking of his team’s foul trouble and the game’s lead changes. “So, I’m very proud of our team for showing some mental toughness.”

“Tee (Myers) made some big free throws,” Harris went on, “Madison (Mault) made a big shot late and Elayne (Robinson) was extremely tough on the boards.”

Littlepage hit 69 percent of her field goal attempts (9-13) and 75 percent of her free throws (6-8) to lead all scorers with 26 points. Levy was also in double figures with 11 points.

Myers added six points in the game while Raven Reyes and Talisha Sherman both scored four. Epting netted three points, Mault and Robinson both had two and Fredrikah Wilson recorded one. The Lady Bears made nine of 14 free throws.

Pearl River was led by Washington’s 16 points. The Lady Wildcats made 10 of 19 free throws.