Louisiana Tech sophomore Lulu Perry went from the outhouse to the penthouse in less than two minutes.
The sophomore guard from Benton, Louisiana committed a critical turnover coming out of a timeout with just over three minutes to play, allowing No. 6 seed Charlotte to tie the game at 51 on a pair of free throws by Ny Hammonds with 3:06 to play.
However, Perry responded by hitting two huge buckets with just under two minutes to play and combining with junior guard Chrisstasia Walter to score every point on a decisive 9-0 run that led the Lady Techsters to a 64-55 win at Memorial Gymnasium Wednesday night.
"It was a battle out there, with both teams really fighting, scratching, and clawing for the dream that everyone has set out for all year long," said Tech head coach Teresa Weatherspoon. "It was awesome to be a part of, to see our kids play so hard offensively and defensively, and to see so many lessons that we learned over the course of the season. It was really amazing to be a part of this and see our kids be so resilient."
The victory sends LA Tech (12-19) into a quarterfinal showdown with the host school and No. 3 seed UTEP Miners Thursday at 6 p.m. CT. UTEP defeated the Lady Techsters 85-75 on Feb. 5 in El Paso in a game that was tied with three minutes to play.
Louisiana Tech made history with the win, becoming the lowest seed to ever advance to the quarterfinals of a conference tournament in NCAA Division I women's basketball history.
History didn't come easy.
In a game that saw nine lead changes and five ties, the Lady Techsters dug deep for 40 minutes to defeat a 49ers team that had beaten LA Tech by 24 in Ruston just a month ago.
With the game on the line and tied at 53-53 after a Lefty Webster jumper with 2:27 to play, Walter hit a pull up jumper from 15 feet to start the 9-0 run. Following a defensive stop, Perry caught a pass at the left elbow and exploded down the left side of the lane and around the 49ers defender to score off the glass. Tech led 57-53.
Following a 30 second timeout by Charlotte, Walter stole the ball from Hammond – the 49ers all-conference point guard – and hit Perry in transition who finished at the rim in traffic to extend the lead to six.
The Tech defense, which held Charlotte to 34 percent shooting and only 23 second half points, forced another stop and Walter was intentionally fouled by Webster with 55 seconds to play, sending her to the free throw line and also giving Tech the basketball. Walter hit one of two to up the lead to 60-53 and then hit two more after being fouled on the ensuing inbounds play.
Charlotte (15-15) would get no closer than seven points the rest of the way.
"The good thing is our kids have been going through this all year long," Weatherspoon said. "They have learned how to battle back. The game is about a run, that's going to happen. You get hit, so you have to hit harder, and our kids understood that. The lesson that we learned through the course of the season is how to get stops and runs of your own. When that run happened, our kids really settled in, trusted in our game plan, and fallowed through with it."
Tech (12-19) won for only the second time this year when trailing at the half, overcoming a 32-29 halftime deficit against the 49ers.
Savanna Langston's jumper with 17:45 to play in the game gave Tech a 35-34 lead and aided an 8-0 run that saw the Lady Techsters eventually grab a 39-34 advantage. Tech maintained the lead which ranged between one and seven points until Hammond's tied the game with two free throws with 3:06 to play.
"I want to congratulate Louisiana Tech, I thought they played a heck of a ball game," said Charlotte coach Cara Consuegra. "I think they played very well the last two days, they competed really hard and I thought for the majority of the game over the course of the 40 minutes, I thought they played hard and wanted it more than us – which is very disappointing. I wish them all the luck going forward."
Whitney Frazier and Kelia Shelton led Tech with 15 points each while Walter and Perry each added 11 points.
Hammonds led Charlotte with 18 points.