West Texas A&M point guard Zamorye Roberts surveys the floor against Texas Woman’s during an NCAA Division II South Central Regional semifinal Saturday night at the First United Bank Center. [Trevor Fleeman/ Press Pass Sports]
One rematch is out of the way for the West Texas A&M Lady Buffs, and a bigger one awaits.
Only they have to hope that there’s no payback rewarded this time.
In one of two Division II South Central Regional semifinal games at First United Bank Center between Lone Star Conference foes Saturday night, the Lady Buffs assured themselves a spot in the Sweet 16. WT took the lead over Texas Woman’s early in the fourth quarter and cling tight to it the rest of the way, holding on for a 78-73 victory.
The win puts the Lady Buffs (25-10) in the region championship game at FUBC at 7 p.m. Monday, when they face two-time defending national champion Lubbock Christian. It will be the fourth meeting between the teams this season, with WT having won the last two.
An epic contest could be expected between the two schools who sit just over 100 miles apart. Beating TWU (20-9) should be solid preparation for it.
“You’ve got to bring your ‘A’ game every night, and if you can’t you’ve got to hope the other parts of your game are good enough to get it done,” first-year WT coach Josh Prock said. “I’m continuing to lose adjectives for the toughness of these girls. I’m so proud of them. These girls deserve it and they played great.”
In the only LSC meeting between the teams in late January in Denton, the Lady Buffs lost 61-50. For a bit in the rematch in Canyon, the Pioneers looked as if they could pull off a season sweep.
TWU led 50-45 headed into the fourth quarter. in the first minute of the period, WT tied it at 50 on a layup by Haylei Janssens and a 3-pointer by Karley Motschenbacher, who led the Lady Buffs with 19 points.
With just over six minutes left in the game Zamorye Roberts scored on a driving layup to give WT the lead for good at 56-54, but it was hardly easy the rest of the way.
WT’s Taylor Williams came off the bench to hit a 3-pointer with 2:46 left and give the Lady Buffs some breathing room with a 65-58 lead. That was part of a stretch in which Williams scored 10 of WT’s 12 points and the Lady Buffs led 72-64 with 46 seconds left.
“I think all year being a senior, I was at a point where I just want to win and I want the team to win,” said Williams, who scored 16 points off the bench. “The team just finding its role and accepting it is the biggest thing. Just to come off the bench and do what I have to do, it takes a village. If someone’s not doing well it takes someone off the bench and that happened to be me.”
Still, it wasn’t over yet. Following an errant WT inbounds pass, the Pioneers cut it to 74-73 on a pair of free throws by Sadie Moyer, who had a game-high 28 points. But Williams and Janssen each hit a pair of free throws, in between which a 3-pointer by TWU rimmed in and out, sealing the win for the Lady Buffs.
It’s no stretch to say WT won the game at the line in the fourth quarter, making 17-of-18 free throws.
“It was a battle of two great teams,” TWU coach Beth Jillson said. “It was going to be tight no matter what and it did come down to one possession. I’m super proud of our team. We just never gave up.”
TWU has certainly proven a worthy adversary for the Lady Buffs this season. That forced them to step things up in the rematch.
“I think we executed our offense a lot better,” Prock said. “We definitely guarded (TWU post Ashley) Ingram a lot better than the last time. She’s an extremely good player even though she’s just a true freshman.”
The first half was as tight as could be expected between two conference foes but WT ended with the upper hand, closing the half on a 9-0 run to take a 31-27 lead into the locker room.
WT’s 16-10 lead at the end of the first quarter was the biggest lead either team had in the half. The Lady Buffs held a narrow lead for the first half, but Texas Woman’s built a 27-22 lead late in the second quarter.
Roberts was the only scorer in double digits for WT in the first half with 10 points and finished the game with 16 points. Janssens was another big player off the bench for the Lady Buffs with 11 points.
Keslyn King had 19 points for TWU and Ingram scored 11.
Now the Lady Buffs turn their attention from one LSC foe to another, as they take on perennially powerful LCU for the right to go to the Elite Eight. LCU won the first meeting of the season between the two teams, but the Lady Buffs won the rematch in Canyon and most recently beat the Lady Chaps in the LSC tournament semifinals, 63-58.
“It’s an absolutely amazing opportunity to be able to play against Lubbock Christian,” Prock said. “I have absolutely as much respect for (LCU coach) Steve Gomez as I do for anybody in the country at any level. It’s going to be a fun battle to get out there.”
LCU holds on against Commerce
The Lady Chaps assured themselves a spot in the region championship game in the first all-LSC semifinal of the evening, surviving a last-second shot attempt to edge Texas A&M-Commerce 69-67.
LCU (28-6) held a narrow lead for most of the evening, and with less than a second left, Commerce (27-5) had a chance to tie it or win it. But a last-second shot from the top of the key was well off the mark.
Ashton Duncan was the lone scorer in double figures for LCU with 25 points.