By Brad Welborn, Northwestern State Assistant Sports Information Director
SAN ANTONIO – The battle for control of the fifth seed in the upcoming Southland Conference Tournament hung in limbo for the better part of 35 minutes on Thursday night. A late 7-0 run as part of UIW’s hot-shooting second half was enough to push away Northwestern State in a 67-58 final.
The loss drops the Lady Demons to 7-9 in conference play and a tie for the sixth seed with McNeese, one game ahead of HCU and New Orleans that are tied for the final tournament spot with two games remaining.
“A lot of great effort in moments tonight, but we didn’t handle adversity as a team and pull together when things got tough,” head coach Anna Nimz said. “Now we’ve got to regroup and refocus our efforts for a very tough matchup on Saturday.”
The first two quarters of the game could not have been two more mirror images of each other with each team winning a quarter by the score of 18-10, on the heels of a one-sided foul situation.
The Lady Demons (11-15, 7-9) moved ahead midway through the first quarter with a 13-4 run thanks in large part to the efforts Candice Parramore. The senior guard went 4-for-5 in the quarter to score nine points to fuel the run over the final seven and a half minutes of the quarter that put NSU ahead 18-10 heading into the second.
The Cardinals made their run at the mid-point of the second quarter, taking advantage of their ample trips to the free throw line in the quarter. After being called for one foul in the first, to UIW’s five, NSU was whistled for nine in the second, to the Cardinals’ one.
UIW was able to close the eight-point gap after the first quarter by making 8-of-12 from the stripe in the period to complete its 18-10 second quarter scoring mark.
The razor-thin difference between the teams continued through the first five minutes of the second half, with each team connecting on four field goals including one from beyond the arc.
Sharna Ayres knocked down the triple for the Demons two minutes into the third that gave NSU the slim 33-32 lead at that point. The Cardinals answered with their lone 3-pointer of the first segment of the half on the ensuing possession.
It was the second half 3-point shooting by the Cardinals that allowed them to being the task of separating themselves from the Demons. UIW went 5-for-9 from beyond the arc in the second half, with a 3-for-4 effort in the fourth quarter that helped it seal the victory.
A Kelsey Thaxton jumper with 4:18 left in the third brought the Demons within a point at 40-39, only to be answered by a Cardinal triple that put them ahead for the final time in the game.
NSU held the Cardinals without a point for the final 2:29 of the third quarter, but only a Jiselle Woodson layup cut into the eight-point deficit making it a 47-41 game going to the fourth.
The Cardinals stretch their lead to double figures with a pair of deep balls early in the period with Ayres providing an answering shot to the second to keep bring it back within single-digits at 52-44. The Demons then made a run to get back within two possession thanks to three straight buckets from Joelle Johnson, part of her second straight double-digit scoring game with 10.
A three and a half field goal drought followed the final layup from Johnson where UIW scored seven straight points to move ahead 63-50 with less than 90 seconds remaining, a run good enough to secure the win.
Parramore finished the game with 18, her 10th straight double-digit scoring game, a new career best. The Cardinals had five players reach double digits, getting 51 of their 67 total points from four players.
— Featured photo by Gary Harmon