KATY, Texas — In a rematch of last season’s Southland Women’s Basketball Tournament championship game, Stephen F. Austin flipped the script to come out on top against No. 3 Central Arkansas 70-60.
The loss denied the Sugar Bears a third straight conference championship and NCAA berth.
“This was two great teams going at it today,” said SFA head coach Mark Kellogg. “It makes a victory that much sweeter knowing how good of a team you’re up against.”
Spearheaded by a well-rounded scoring effort with four different players scoring in double figures, SFA dismantled the trademark Sugar Bear defense, which held opponents to 49.8 points per game this season.
SFA capped the first half with a 6-0 run to draw within 34-32 at halftime after a shot second quarter by the Sugar Bears.
SFA kept the deficit in single digits, setting up Stevi Parker for a single-handed 6-0 run. A 3-pointer from Newcomer of the Year Imani Johnson followed to tie the game at 44 with four minutes to play in the third. The Ladyjacks kept the run going to the end of the quarter, finishing with a 14-2 clip to reclaim the lead and head into the final stage up 50-46.
“There was a sense of urgency headed into the third quarter,” said Johnson. “We had to come out and push the pace after the second quarter we had.”
Neither team mounted much offense in the opening stages of the fourth and SFA allowed UCA to stay within low single digits. With 5:00 on the clock however, another triple from Johnson pushed the Ladyjacks to their largest lead of the game since the end of the first quarter, 57-50. The deficit grew as a layup from senior Taylor Jackson put SFA up 61-50.
Taylor Baudoin's jumper with 1:32 to go brought the Sugar Bears within seven leading into a timeout. It was as close as they would get, and the Ladyjacks would hang on down the stretch for a 10-point victory and a spot in Sunday's title game.
Parker led the Stephen F. Austin offense with 22 points while three fellow ‘Jacks also scored in double figures. A trio of Sugar Bears also notched double digit totals, led by Taylor Sells with 17. Kierra Jordan registered 16 points while Baudoin dropped 10.
The free-throw line was a huge difference maker for the Ladyjacks as they went 21-29 compared to UCA’s 7 of 9. SFA also held a healthy advantage on made three pointers – seven to three.
SFA faces No. 4 Nicholls Sunday in the championship game at noon CT on CBS Sports Network, seeking its 16th tournament championship in program history.