LEVELLAND— One step closer.
The South Plains College Lady Texans picked up their fourth consecutive Western Junior College Athletic Conference victory over the last five games after routing the No. 23 Odessa Lady Wranglers 58-43 Thursday night at the Texan Dome.
Thursday night's win catapults the Lady Texans past Odessa (15-8, 4-5) in the conference standings, with South Plains now sitting at the fourth spot with just four conference games remaining.
"I couldn't be more proud of them," South Plains head coach Cayla Petree said. "I feel like this is a continuation of we have been trying to build on. I told them in the fourth quarter, 'we've been here before, did we get beat, or did we get better?'"
The Lady Texans (17-9, 5-5) began the contest on an 8-0 run that was capped of by a conversion at the bucket from Dabraisia Baty with 6:10 left in the first quarter. That 8-0 advantage was one that South Plains would build upon over the course of 40 minutes, as they never trailed once in the contest.
Elizabeth Cera, who led all scorers with 14 points and four rebounds, hit consecutive jumpers with under four minutes to play in the first half, giving the Lady Texans a 24-20 lead heading into the break.
"I think we got tired, but we kept playing hard, and we finished the game," Cera said. "We've been getting better every game. I feel like everybody did their job. People who don't usually play that much played today, and they all did something good. I think that's why we won tonight."
South Plains continued to push the pace in the second half, eventually expanding their lead to as much as eight on a 3-pointer from Cera with under six minutes remaining in the third quarter. Brittany Smith's conversion at the rim in traffic gave the Lady Texans a 40-33 lead heading into the final 10 minutes of regulation.
"Go get it. Our mentality tonight was go get it," Smith said. "We needed this game to have a good spot, and I think we finished well. Our defense was huge. Our intensity on defense, our talking on defense, it got into their heads. We pushed the whole game."
The final ten minutes saw the Lady Texans continue to evolve and get stronger as the clock dwindled away. Both teams traded buckets over the first five minutes of the final stint, but consecutive buckets from Ramiah Henry pushed the Lady Texans lead to 11 points with just 2:21 remaining, sending South Plains one step closer to a regional birth.
""We felt like our backs were up against the wall," Petree said. "We knew we had to win tonight to give ourselves a chance. By no means does that mean the race is over, but this helped us stay alive. We have to have that mentality every night."
The Lady Texans will now face off with the No. 8 nationally ranked New Mexico Junior College Lady Thunderbirds on Monday, February 8 in New Mexico, with tipoff set for 5:45 p.m.