Texas Tech-UNLV deliver in West Texas showcase in Canyon


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Spearman graduate and Texas Tech Lady Raiders coach Krista Gerlich argues a call against UNLV during a West Texas Showcase at the First United Bank Center in Canyon on Sunday. [Trevor Fleeman/ Press Pass Sports]

Texas Tech and UNLV gave an announced crowd of close to 2,000 fans an entertaining affair with the Lady Raiders pulling out a 68-61 win at the First United Bank Center in Canyon on Sunday afternoon.

It was an important non-conference win for Texas Tech, as the Lady Raiders improved to 7-2 overall, but it was also a major Homecoming for head coach Krista Gerlich, senior sharp shooter Lexy Hightower, and UNLV forward Kenadee Winfrey.

This West Texas showcase displayed and honored all three who are not only huge names in the Amarillo-area, but have left major impacts on women’s basketball.

Gerlich, who is in her second season coaching her Alma mater leading Texas Tech to its only national title in 1993, spent seven seasons coaching West Texas A&M. She said it was thrilling to be back on the sideline in Canyon.

“I can’t thank West Texas A&M enough for hosting this game,” Gerlich said. “It was a great atmosphere. It’s exactly what we were looking for. There were so many old faces we got to see, and former players in the crowd. It definitely felt like a home game.”

Texas Tech guard and former West Texas A&M All-American Lexy Hightower looks to pass. [Trevor Fleeman/ Press Pass Sports]

Hightower was welcomed to a huge ovation when she was announced in the starting lineup introductions. Hightower is one of the best to ever wear a West Texas A&M Lady Buff uniform.

Over her four years at WT, Hightower was a three-time Division II All-American, and two-time Lone Star Conference Player of the Year selection. Before transferring to Texas Tech in the spring to try her hand at Division I, Hightower left ranking sixth all-time in points at WT with 1,642 points.

Hightower scored five points in 21 minutes during Sunday’s win. The senior knocked down an early first quarter 3-pointer, then hit two clutch free-throws after a technical foul call on UNLV, that gave Texas Tech a 63-59 lead with 1:49 remaining in the game.

“It was really fun, and very nostalgic,” Hightower said. “West Texas A&M has meant so much to me over my years. It was great to be back and play here one more time.”

Canyon graduate and UNLV freshman forward Kenadee Winfrey runs down the floor after hitting a 3-pointer. [Trevor Fleeman/ Press Pass Sports]

Winfrey had a terrific performance in front of all of her family and the Canyon faithful. Not even a year removed from helping the Lady Eagles to a UIL Class 4A state championship, the freshman got the start Sunday, and did she deliver. After getting in early foul trouble, Winfrey came back strong in the second half to hit a big third quarter 3-ball, pull down seven rebounds, and get a steal in 23 minutes.

“It was awesome,” Winfrey said. “The energy was crazy. It was so fun to be home, and playing back in front of these great fans. It was also a great game to be a part of.”

UNLV head coach Lindy La Rocque loved the atmosphere, and seeing Winfrey getting this opportunity.

“This is why we came,” La Rocque said. “This is Kenadee’s hometown, so this is why we came. We put her in the starting lineup and she played with a lot of energy. We recruit out of this area, and we know how good West Texas basketball is. We were proud to be able to show off our program, and what we do, and we’re thrilled Kenadee got to come home and play in front of her family.”

As for the game, the Lady Rebels (6-3) rallied from two double-digit deficits, cutting the Texas Tech advantage several times to within five points. Down the stretch, Desi-Rae Young hit a fade away bucket, pulling UNLV within two, 61-59. But on her way down Young was called for a technical foul for taunting.

That allowed Hightower to hit two big free throws, giving the Lady Raiders a 63-59 lead. UNLV once again came within two points with 1:30 to play before Sunday’s hero Viviana Gray stepped up for the Lady Raiders.

In only her second game back, Gray was masterful from midrange the entire contest,?knocking down a jumper giving Texas Tech a 65-61 lead it’d never relinquish. Gray was dominant from the floor scoring a team-high 25 points on 10-of-20 shooting with five assists.

“This game was a lot more comfortable,” Gray said. “Before the Georgia game last week I’d only had two practices. I’m starting to find my game, and my teammates have been great in helping me.”

For full games stats, please visit https://www.presspasssports.com/wp-content/uploads/attachments/1965410.PDF


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