Monday night’s Red River Athletic Conference showdown between metroplex rivals was another classic.
The outcome left only one team smiling, and it wasn’t the home team. In the recent history between these teams, that seems to be the one thing you can count on: The visitor has a pleasant ride home.
Southwestern Assemblies of God University and Texas Wesleyan University went down to the wire again, giving fans all the suspense they could handle. Wesleyan, behind a dramatic rally, stunned the Lady Lions with a 63-58 win to earn a split of the season series.
In their previous meeting in Fort Worth it was Southwestern stealing one at the end, scoring four points in the last two seconds to escape with a 59-56 triumph.
The Lady Rams closed the game with a remarkable comeback that began just when it appeared they were going down. SAGU had built its largest lead at 55-46 with 5:50 remaining. Chelsea Jones had just stroked back-to-back three-pointers during an 8-2 Lady Lions run.
The storyline could have been about Southwestern seizing control down the stretch, which it is known for, or for its forgettable final six minutes. Depending on one’s point of view, it was either the Rams resilient rally, or SAGU’s breakdown. In succumbing to Wesleyan, the Lions were outscored 17-3 in those pivotal moments.
“We just didn’t finish,” said an obviously disappointed SAGU head coach Arlon Beadles.
It has been said there are two things that rob people of their peace of mind: work unfinished and work not yet begun.
In the final 5:50, Wesleyan’s recent 6-foot junior transfer from UT-Arlington, Veronica Mergeson scored six points and pulled down three big rebounds. Brittany White added five points and Shayla Moore four, including a critical three-ball.
White, a 5-foot-7 guard, gave the Rams the lead, 59-58, when she converted a pair from the free throw line with 1:55 to play. The Lady Lions missed a 10-foot baseline jumper on their next possession and were called for travelling during their next trip down court.
Still, SAGU had a chance to tie the score. Trailing 60-58 the Lady Lions benefitted from a questionable call on a clutch rebound by Gabby Bruner. Bruner had three rebounds, one she cashed in for a putback deuce, during the Rams’ rally. She was the lone bright spot in the closing minutes.
It was Bruner who won the first game at Wesleyan. Fouled with 0:01.7 showing on the game clock, she made two foul shots to give SAGU a 57-56 lead. Jones intercepted the inbounds pass, was fouled, and concerted two free throws to seal the deal. There was a similar chance on Monday.
The officials awarded SAGU two free throws with six ticks remaining. Fate didn’t smile on Southwestern. The first shot rimmed out. The second didn’t even count as a lane violation wiped it out.
Wesleyan added a free throw, and, after a turnover, Octavia Mullins wristed a jumper at the buzzer that meant something. Should the teams end the season tied, the Rams will hold a two-point edge in the series thanks to her shot.
In the final 5:50, the Lady Lions committed four turnovers, made just one of six shots, and missed two of three free throws. Meanwhile the Rams made the most of their opportunities, sinking 8-of-11 from the charity stripe and three of their seven shots.
The loss dropped Southwestern into a second place tie with Texas Wesleyan. SAGU is now 16-6 overall and 11-3 in the RRAC. The Lady Lions were ranked No. 37 in the country in Monday’s NAIA Coaches Poll. Wesleyan, winners of five straight, is 19-3 and 11-3.
Both teams trail Langston University (18-4, 13-1). Langston, ranked No. 16, rolled past LSU-Shreveport 65-47 on Monday.
Jones and Hawkins netted 24 and 18. Jones had a season-best 10 rebounds. Heather Jefferson added six points.
Wesleyan placed three in double digits: White 16, Mergeson 12 and Moore with 11. Mergeson was the player of the game. Her 14 boards enabled the Rams to grab a 37-31 edge in rebounds.
The Lady Lions have eight games left in the regular season five of them on the road. This Saturday, Feb. 5, Southwestern entertains Wiley College (7-13, 4-9 RRAC) for a 2 p.m. matinee.
The Wildcats, fresh off a heartbreaking loss of their own, 67-63 to Bacone College (14-6, 8-6 RRAC), will come to Waxahachie hungry to avenge the loss. They are one game out of eighth place in their effort to qualify for the Red River tournament.
When the two teams met earlier this season, the Lions built a 34-22 halftime lead and coasted to a 68-56 win in Marshall. SAGU had four players reach double figures.