LUBBOCK—Despite placing four scorers in double figures, the South Plains College Lady Texans fell to the Seward County Saints 87-69 on Tuesday in the second round of the 2017 NJCAA Women's Basketball National Tournament at the Rip Griffin Center.
"Just a lot of respect for Seward County," South Plains head coach Cayla Petree said. "Their players had a great game and definitely came to play and shot lights out. They made 16 3s and shot 41 percent from the field. That's just really impressive at our level, and it wasn't like we didn't identify the shooters. We made our run early, they just remained poised and they just kind of chipped away and the momentum swung and they never looked back."
Yanina Inkina led the Lady Texans(28-6) in scoring in her final game as the sophomore from Belarus totaled 18 points and six boards in 40 minutes of action. Elizabeth Cera finished the contest with 15 points including four 3s while Brittany Smith chipped in 11 points, hauled in six boards and dished out five assists.
"It was a great two years in my basketball career," Inkina said. "I came here to grow up, and I came from a little country Belarus where we heard about it a lot. I definitely stepped up, and thank you to coach Petree for all the opportunities she gave to me and our assistant coach Brock Kimball. I really appreciate the effort and what they put into me."
Seward's(32-2) Mollie Mounsey led all scorers with 26 points shooting 10-of-26 from the field while Neidy Ocuane pitched in 21 points and four boards. South Plains shot 36 percent in the contest while the Saints posted a 44 percent shooting mark.
South Plains pounced to an early 8-0 lead to begin the contest as a pair of buckets from Cera got things rolling for the Lady Texans. Seward answered midway through the first with an 11-4 run with South Plains holding onto a one-point, 17-16 advantage after one quarter.
The offensive display continued from both sides throughout the second quarter as the Saints shot 60 percent from the field over the next 10 minutes while the Lady Texans knocked down 10-of-19 shots from the floor. Jasauen Beard, who finished with 14 points and nine boards for the Lady Texans put her team back on top 31-30 with a putback at the rim with 3:13 left before the half.
Seward's Erin Richardson would cap off a 9-3 with a 3-pointer from the corner to put the Saints up 39-34 with 2:04 to play. Seward would go to take a 46-42 lead into the break.
"They are very balanced, and they have inside and they have outside and have shooters all the way around," Petree said. "We came out and hit some shots early and fatigue maybe got us, and with fatigue came the mental errors and empty possessions. That wasn't necessarily what we were doing wrong, but what Seward was doing right. They had a great defensive plan and executed it well."
The Saints opened the second half with a 12-4 run capped off by a 3-ball from Mounsey to extend the lead to 58-47 midway through the third. Cera cut the lead to 58-50 with a trey of her own with 4:39 remaining to bring the Lady Texans within eight. A 3 from Mounsey followed by a layup from Ocuane pushed the Saints lead to 64-50 with 3:30 to play in the third.
Mounsey would hit from the perimeter midway through the fourth to extend the lead to 78-61. South Plains continued to battle on the offensive end over the next five minutes but it wouldn't be enough as the Saints controlled the remaining minutes of the contest.
"It was a fun run and a great ride for us," Petree said. "I could not coach any better people than these two sitting right here beside me and some of those girls in that locker room. They came here with a new coach to a struggling program, and they put a lot of trust in me and trusted me with the thing that means the most to them, their basketball career.
"This is the most fun I've ever had in my career, and I love them and they have nothing to hang their heads about. I hate to lose, but I'm not sad about losing, I'm sad that I don't get to coach these guys anymore."