Lady Lions secure impressive win against Southland Conference leaders UCA Sugar Bears

A narrow upset victory over the University of Central Arkansas Sugar Bears (22-5, 12-2 SLC) put the Lady Lions (11-16, 6-8 SLC) in the win column for the sixth time in their last nine conference matches and moved them one step closer to earning a Southland Conference tournament bid.

The Lady Lions are currently tied for seventh place in the SLC and can clinch their fourth straight tournament bid with a win this week or a Texas A&M Corpus-Christi loss in the last two outings of the season.

The first half of Saturday’s game showed the Lady Lions keeping pace with the top ranked team in the Southland Conference with an offensive attack spearheaded by redshirt sophomore Aja Gibson and freshman guard Symone Miller. The Sugar Bears took a small lead to start the game but could not stave off the Lady Lions for long. A jumper from Miller brought the game to a tie at 10, and a jumper by senior guard Kelli Jenkins put the Lady Lions on top. They would not hold the lead long, as a jumper and three-pointer by Sugar Bear senior guard Destinee Rogers put UCA on top for the rest of the half. Head coach Lori Davis-Jones pointed out the impressive record of their opponent to her team at halftime.

“She told us that they were the number one team, and even though they were the number one team, we were still going to do what we need to do on our home court to win this game,” said senior guard Latoria Holder.

The Lady Lions wasted no time in the second half grinding away at the deficit and at the 13:51 mark tied the game at 35. Another three-pointer by Rogers put the Sugar Bears up by one, but Gibson responded with a jumper to give her team the lead. The Lady Lions managed to hold onto the lead until the 2:58 mark when Sugar Bear junior forward Megan Herbert drained both free throw attempts after being fouled by Jenkins. UCA mustered a two point lead before Gibson was fouled attempting a layup with 41 seconds left. Gibson made both the shot and the free throw to bring the Lady Lions up by one.  The Lady Lions would not relinquish the lead again, ending the match at 58-53. Gibson finished the contest with 19 points, the most by a player on either team.  Jenkins followed with 11, while Miller had 10. Junior forward Brandi Simmons added eight rebounds while Gibson had six.

I’m glad to see Symone [Miller] finally get it together again,” said Davis-Jones.  “Liz [Elizabeth Styles] has been dynamic all the way around, even when she’s throwing the ball away. The two post freshmen [Summer Postell and Hillary Shaffer] are valuable, especially because Aja [Gibson] and Brandi [Simmons] have a tendency to get into foul trouble.”

Afterwards, Davis-Jones talked about her strategy over the last minute of the game.

“Well, we changed our defense,” said Davis-Jones. “We were a little nervous about it, but we felt like we had to do it. We knew they had good stuff and they could come down and execute pretty good, so we changed our defense, and went to something you don’t normally go to when you’re up by one.”

The Lady Lions have just two games left, with their final home game coming on March 3 against conference rival Nicholls State.