Lady Lions close the books on historic season


Troy Allen

Senior guard Cierria Cunningham was an underrated part of Southeastern’s success during the 2022-23 campaign. She led the Lady Lions with 14 points during SLU’s 46-42 victory over Texas A&M-Commerce at the University Center back in January. (Jan. 21, 2023 – Hammond, La.)

The Southeastern Lady Lions basketball team had a fantastic season, seeing multiple awards go to players and coaches. 

The Green and Gold held the best record in the Southland Conference at 14-4 and the best overall record at 21-10. Their spectacular play earned them the No. 1 seed and a two-round bye in the SLC Tournament. 

Head Coach Ayla Guzzardo led Southeastern to three straight winning seasons, which hasn’t been achieved since 1993-1996. Her success  granted her Head Coach of the Year honors in the Southland Conference. 

Junior Guard from Baton Rouge Alexius Horne made First Team All-Southland this season with averages of 12.0 points per game and 3.1 rebounds per game. She was top five in total assists for Southeastern as well. 

Horne’s best game this season came against the NCAA Champions LSU. She dropped a career-high 28 points on 48% from the field in her return to the “Red Stick”. 

Her teammate Hailey Giaratano made Second Team All-Southland. Giaratano led SLU in points per game with 12.2 and placed third on the team in total rebounds. 

Freshman Jen Pierre and senior Natalie Kelly also made the All-Defense team in the Southland Conference. Pierre tallied 49 total steals in the season (led SLU), while Kelly had 49 total blocks in just 24 games. 

This is the first time in school history that multiple women’s basketball players made an All-Southland appearance. 

Heading into the tournament, Southeastern played Texas A&M-Commerce in the third round. SLU pulled away in the fourth quarter and overtime periods due to some late-game heroics. 

The Lady Lions held TAMC to nine points in the fourth quarter. Southeastern scored 16 points in the fourth, including Giaratano’s game-tying layup to send the game into overtime. During OT, Giaratano scored the last four points for SLU, including the game-tying and go-ahead bucket to win; Southeastern escaped with a 60-58 victory.  

Pierre led SLU in scoring with 19 points while shooting 50% from the field and recorded a career-high five steals in the matchup. 

Entering the Southland Conference Championship against Lamar University, the Green and Gold were without Horne due to a knee injury. Guard Taylor Bell stepped up in huge fashion for SLU; she recorded a career-high 22 points on an uber-efficient 78% from the field and 3-3 from three. 

Southeastern entered the second half down seven points but exploded in the third. The Green and Gold scored 26 points on 10-18 shooting (55.6%) to give themselves a seven-point lead entering the fourth.

Lamar never recovered and the Lady Lions won their first Southland Conference Championship 66-57. Giaratano won Southland Tournament MVP due to her late-game heroics. She scored 15 points, eight rebounds and recorded two blocks against the Cardinals. 

Southeastern punched their ticket into the NCAA Tournament, where they faced All-American Caitlin Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes (eventual national runner-up). 

SLU did lose the game; however, it does not take away from their historic season. Great things are coming to the women’s basketball program, led by a phenomenal coaching staff. 

Southeastern will look to defend their Southland Championship in the 2023-2024 season.