The Hendrix women were on target at the free-throw line and used their bench as a major weapon Saturday in reaching the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament championship game.
The Warriors (17-10) and winners of eight of their last nine games hit 18 of 21 free throws in the second half and 14 of 16 during the final six minutes to surge to their third straight victory over Southwestern, 77-67, earning a spot in the women’s championship game at noon today at the Hanger Dome at Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss.
Prior to Saturday, Hendrix was 0-3 in SCAC semifinal games. The Warriors will play longtime nemesis DePauw, a 73-53 victor over Trinity in the other semifinal, for their first tourney championship and an automatic berth in the NCAA Division III playoffs.
"It wasn’t X’s and O’s today, it was total focus and mental toughness," said Hendrix first-year coach Emily Cummins.
The Warriors overwhelmed the Pirates, 44-11, in bench points.
"We had great sparks coming off the bench," Cummins said. "We’re still peaking and still have a lot to show."
The Warriors placed five players in double figures, led by Anna Roane with 17 and two assists. Roane was four of eight on 3-point attempts.
"We have some many offensive threats, I just happened to be the one who stepped up today," Roane said. "It all came down to discipline. We wanted it and worked hard every possessions."
"We’re struggled with Hendrix all year," said Southwestern Kerri Brinkoeter. "They (the Warriors) highlight our weaknesses."
Christina Byler added 13 points for the Warriors on six of seven shooting from the line. Conway’s Katy Ashley-Pauley scored 11 points and was eight of eight form the foul line. Conway’s Wyvonne Hawkins was five of nine from the field ont the way to 10 points. Caty Hennsy scored 10 points of five-of-eight shooting from the field."
"One of our goals is to always hit more free throws than our opponents attempt," Cummins said. "Our free-throw shooting the first half (two of five) was not very good. Then we started getting to the line."
The free-throw shooting bridged a rough spot for the Warriors.
Hendrix led 32-29 at the half but pushed the lead to 11 the second half before they hit a cold spell and the Pirates rallied to a 53-50 lead with 8:26 left. Byler, Ashley-Pauley and Jordan Henderson combined to hit six straight free throws, then a 3-pointer by Roane and two free throws by Henderson pushed Hendrix to a six-point cushion.
Southwestern drew within 68-67 with 1:52 left.
Byler and Roane scored scored then Ashley-Pauley, Roane and Byler hit free throws to help the Warriors pull away for good.
The Warriors had a 14-8 edge on the offensive board and 42-35 overall. There were 10 lead changes and six ties.
"There were a couple of stretches that we were not hitting shots but were getting the ball inside and attacking the basket and pounding the ball and getting to the free throw line, which made a big difference," Cummins said.
In the Hendrix locker room afterwards, "I was fired up and they were fired up," Cummins said. "We are playing really well and we want to enjoy this win a little before we concentrate on tomorrow."