Texas Woman's takes Lone Star title
BARTLESVILLE, Okla. – With the shot clock winding down, Kayla Weaver got the ball in her hands, drove the lane and pulled up to drill a 17-footer to give Texas Woman's University a one-point edge against Central Oklahoma in Saturday night's Lone Star Conference Championship final at Bruin Fieldhouse.
But it took one more defensive stand and when the Pioneers blocked a shot by UCO's Alex Richardson, the buzzer sounded, giving TWU its first-ever LSC title in any sport.
Equally important, the Pioneers' 74-73 win against UCO extends their season, advancing TWU (22-10) to next week's South Central Regional tournament, another first for the basketball program.
Weaver scored a game-high 29 points and grabbed 14 rebounds and was named the tournament's MVP. Jessica Hanna, who had 18 points and also hit the game-winners on Wednesday and Friday night, was on the all-tournament team along with Brooke Shepherd who scored 20 points Saturday night.
“It's just a surreal feeling right now,” TWU head coach Beth Jillson said, just moments before she cut down the final strings to the championship net. “This is a huge step for our program and our entire athletic department and the school. To win the first LSC championship for the school is an amazing feeling.”
To win the title, TWU had to win three consecutive games in four days, beating the likes of West Texas A&M, Northeastern State and UCO, which had beaten the Pioneers 18 consecutive times before Saturday night.
Before the tournament, Jillson gave a “David and Goliath” speech to her team, and continued the theme all weekend.
“I told the team we had a stone for every giant,” Jillson said. “All three of those teams were ranked ahead of us in the region and some of them in the nation. They are three teams that have been very difficult for us. So it's just an amazing accomplishment for this program and these kids. I'm so proud of them.”
But Jillson's level of pride was equally matched by TWU athletic director Chalese Connors who had to wipe away a few tears of joy when watching Jillson and the Pioneers hoist the LSC Championship trophy.
“Well, it's pretty hard to explain what I'm feeling . . . because we've never done this before,” Connors said. “I'm so incredibly proud of this team – Coach Jillson and her staff and all of these players. They came here with a plan and they executed it. We're obviously peaking at the right time, and I'm just so proud to say that we're bringing back the conference championship to Denton, Texas, and Texas Woman's University.”
As for her game-winning shot, Weaver said it wasn't exactly the play called, but with the clock winding down, she was running out of options.
“They were in a zone and we had to run something different,” Weaver said. “When the ball got to me, I heard (the bench) counting down the shot clock so I had to just get something off.”
The go-ahead shot was the 19th lead change of the game but UCO had another shot. The Bronchos gave the ball to lone senior Ashley Beckley, who lost the handle, sending the ball shooting into the backcourt with three players diving for it. A jump-ball possession went back to UCO with eight seconds left. This time, the Bronchos looked for Alex Richardson, who had 28 points and 11 boards. But Richardson couldn't get a shot to fall under the basket. The ball went to Hanna, who held it tightly as the buzzer sounded and the Pioneers flooded the court with excitement.
For UCO, Beckley had 19 points and Alyssa Fuxa scored 11 and rebounds. Beckley and Richardson were named to the all-tournament team, along with Tarleton State's Shelby Adamson.