THIBODAUX- Despite a 71-68 road loss at Nicholls (10-13, 9-7 SLC) Wednesday night, McNeese women’s basketball clinched a spot in next week’s Southland Conference Tournament.
“What a heartbreaking loss,” said head coach Kacie Cryer. “Our girls played tough, hard, together, and it was one of our best conference games we played all year. We couldn’t ask for a better effort from the group. We did everything possible to win but credit Nicholls’ Anna McKendree for hitting some very tough and big shots. We made a few mistakes after those shots at the end that allowed Nicholls to steal this one from us.
McNeese (6-14, 6-7 SLC) held an 11-point lead with 2:06 to play following a Divine Tanks layup. McKendree cut the lead to 10 by making one of two free throws but got the rebound off her second miss and hit a three-pointer to cut the lead to seven. Following a Cowgirl turnover on the next possession, McKendree hit another three to cut the lead to four (66-62) with 1:29 to play.
The Cowgirls would miss their next shot and McKendree struck again with her third straight three-point to pull Nicholls to within one point with less than a minute to play.
Shaela Gardner’s jumper in the paint with 32 seconds left gave McNeese a 68-65 lead.
McKendree would get fouled on the next possession and would make both to cut the McNeese lead back to one point (68-67) with 29 seconds. Another Cowgirl turnover allowed Nicholls to take a 69-68 lead with eight seconds and then a layup off a steal by Terris McKay put the Colonels up 71-68 with four seconds. Claralee Richard was able to get a jump shot off outside the paint just before time expired, giving Nicholls the win.
“I’m so proud of our girls, bit this one really stings all of us. It was a tremendous effort and these girls truly left it all out on the court. This was our team and this is what it’s going to take from here on out.”
Four Cowgirls scored in double figures with Kyla Hamilton leading the way with 20 points. Shaela Gardner scored 15 points, connecting on 4 of 5 from three-point land. Richard pitched in with 15 and Divine Tanks recorded a double double with 10 points and a game high 13 rebounds.
McNeese held a 32-28 halftime lead and a 55-47 lead after the third quarter but the Colonels outscored the Cowgirls 24-13 in the fourth quarter, ending the game on an 18-4 run in the final 2:30 minutes to steal the win.
McKendree led all players with 24 points while McKay added 12 and Chelsea Cain also collected a double double with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
McNeese will conclude the regular season by hosting Lamar at 1 p.m. Saturday before taking part in the Southland Conference Tournament in Katy, Texas next week.