STEPHENVILLE – Tarleton hosted Abilene Christian Wednesday night in its final home game of the regular season and rewarded the seniors with a 65-48 victory.
It was senior night for three of the TexAnns with guard Sonya Sundberg, forward Brittnie Haley and center Kelsey Benford being recognized prior to tip-off for their accomplishments and contributions to Tarleton over the past four years.
The TexAnns set the pace of the game early with an up-tempo style of offense that caught the Wildcats off guard. Tarleton jumped out to an early 8-2 lead by the 18:10 mark behind a pair of lay ups by Haley and baskets from Tara Towns and Benford.
From there, defense began to settle in somewhat, but it was still a very fast paced game for both teams.
Tarleton had a couple of five-point runs to continue to separate themselves from ACU in the first half. Unlike the Wildcats, the TexAnns scored in bunches. ACU had a 3:39 scoring drought which really put Wildcats in a hole on the road.
By the 9:31 mark, Tarleton had already built a 24-10 lead after consecutive buckets by Morgan Stehling.
As time ticked away off the clock, the TexAnns enjoyed their double-digit lead, but ACU refused to give up with a five-point run of their own over a 2:49 stretch.
Over the finals 6:30 of the first half, Tarleton got four clutch free throws by Shelby Adamson, a three by Brianna Bledsoe, and a basket by Morgan Stehling to go into the locker room with a 33-21 advantage.
In the first half, the TexAnns shot only 30.6 percent from the floor, but hit 10 free throws. They also held the Wildcats to a 26.9 percentage from the field and out-rebounded them 28-17.
Haley had eight points and five boards to lead the way for Tarleton, while Adamson added seven points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals. Stehling chipped in five points, with Wright and Benford adding five and six rebounds respectively.
Cecilee Perez was the only Wildcat to make a difference in the first half with eight points, but the TexAnns forced her to commit three turnovers.
With the 12-point lead heading into the second half, Tarleton was looking to just maintain their advantage and make good decisions offensively.
The TexAnns choice to get out and run the floor forced ACU into some tough situations, often resulting in fouls.
Towns hit a pair of free throws to get the scoring started in the second half for Tarleton, and was quickly followed by a Stehling three and lay ups by Wright and Benford. By the 14:26 mark, the TexAnns had already pushed their lead to 15 points.
ACU was able to cut the deficit a little bit in the middle of the second half, but after the 13:24 mark, Tarleton began to pull away.
The TexAnns got their lead to as high as 26-points before settling for a 17-point victory. The Wildcats never got closer than 11 points in the second half.
Tarleton finished off the season sweep of Abilene Christian with a 65-48 victory in the final home game of the regular season.
As a team, the TexAnns shot 32.3 percent from the floor and hit 21 of their 32 free throw attempts. Tarleton out-scored ACU 34-14 in the paint and got 27 points from their bench.
Stehling led the TexAnns with 14 points, while Adamson had her first career double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds. She was just one of four TexAnns with nine or more rebounds. The others included Haley with 13 points and nine rebounds, Wright with 10 points and 13 rebounds, and Benford with eight points and 11 rebounds.
Tarleton out-rebounded the Wildcats by an astonishing 51-30. That marked the highest total for the TexAnns this season.
Tarleton also had 12 assists, compared to ACU’s four.
The Wildcats were led by Mack Lankford, who had 16 points, but also had three turnovers. Kelsey Smith had 10 rebounds for ACU, a team-high.
The No. 16 TexAnns improve their record to 23-2 on the year and 13-0 in LSC play.
Coach Ronnie Hearne talked about his seniors after the game.
“I am really proud of these three girls,” said Hearne. “They have had outstanding careers here at Tarleton and took part in a historical season for this program. We achieved our highest national ranking, our highest regional ranking, made our eighth straight trip to the LSC tournament and won the first South Division title in school history. Sonya, Kelsey, and Brittnie have been a major part of that and we still have a good shot at winning more games.”
Tarleton finishes up the regular season in San Angelo Saturday, Feb. 26, when the TexAnns take on the Rambelles at 5:30 p.m.