Tarleton State ends tourney drought
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Tarleton picked up its first NCAA Division II tournament win in school history with an 86-75 win against Southeastern Oklahoma in the first round Friday afternoon.
Southeastern Oklahoma struck first with a free throw and a layup to take a 3-0 lead. Tarleton’s Shelby Adamson led a surge by the TexAnns when she followed with a 3-pointer, then stole the inbounds pass for the layup making a quick five-point turnaround.
After a pair of Savage Storm free throws, Tarleton added another run with a layup by Stehling, two free throws by Adamson and a nice mid-range jumper by Stehling again to push the lead to 11-5.
The TexAnns didn’t stop there though as Lisa Parker added to the advantage with a deep 3-pointer, capping off a 9-0 Tarleton run.
SEOKU was able to stop the bleeding for a minute with a couple of baskets of their own to cut the lead down to five with 14:15 on the clock.
With both teams settling in defensively, points became tougher to come by with Tarleton and Southeastern Oklahoma trading blows over the next few minutes. Both teams being familiar with each other led to a physical battle for position in the paint.
The TexAnns and Savage Strom started to trade baskets with neither team able to make a major difference on the scoring margin. They entered the third media time out with Tarleton leading 20-15.
Brianna Bledsoe hit a pair of free throws coming out of the break, which gave back the TexAnns a seven-point advantage. The freshman out of Stephenville High School followed those up with a big 3 to make it 25-17 in Tarleton’s favor.
Tomika Lynce came off the bench next and hit a layup to give Tarleton their first double-digit lead of the ball game, which was capitalized on by Kelsey Benford’s contested layup to put the TexAnns ahead 29-17 with 8:54 remaining in the half.
The physicality of the game was increased as both teams made multiple trips to the free-throw line.
As the clock ticked under six minutes of play, Tarleton held on to a 35-22 lead with both teams in the double-bonus in terms of fouls. In fact, SEOKU survived only on free throws from the 10:55 mark all the way to the 4:57 mark, a drought of over 5:58.
The Savage Storm were able to cut the TexAnns’ lead to just seven with an 8-2 run with time ticking away in the first half.
Coming out of the final media time out before half time, it was going to be crucial for SEOKU to stop Tarleton from heading into the half with a double-digit lead. The TexAnns are 18-1 on the season after leading at the half.
SEOKU cut the lead to just six with a big 3-pointer, but Bledsoe answered with a runner in the paint to stop any shift of momentum.
Stehling hit a step-back jumper with 0:26 on the clock to give Tarleton a 41-33 lead and some confidence entering the half.
Through the first 20 minutes, the TexAnns shot 46.9 percent from the field, led by Adamson with 10 points. Stehling added eight points, while Bledsoe and Wright both chipped in seven points apiece.
Tarleton held SEOKU to just 24.2 percent from the floor and 2-of-10 from behind the arc. The TexAnns also had a 12-6 assist-to-turnover ratio.
At the start of the second half, SEOKU hit a big 3 to immediately cut the margin to five, but Tarleton was able to hit back-to-back jumpers by Towns and Stehling.
Unfortunately, the Savage Storm would respond with a run of their own, starting with a 3-pointer at the 18:49 mark. Less than 3 minutes later, Tarleton found themselves up by only two points, 47-45, after a 9-2 SEOKU run.
A free throw by Sonya Sundberg gave the TexAnns some breathing room with a three-point lead and 15:54 to play.
SEOKU was able to tie the ball game with a 3, but Sundberg answered with a 3-pointer of her own and her first field goal of the game. She was not done though and went down the next possession to convert a layup and a free throw for an old-fashioned three-point play.
The momentum did not last long though as the Storm went down and hit a pair of free throws to take a 56-55 lead with 12:01 on the clock. This marked their first lead since the 19:01 mark of the first half.
Adamson took back a 58-56 Tarleton lead with a 3-pointer, but SEOKU hit another jumper to tie the game and keep the TexAnns from pulling away.
With 11:00 remaining in the game and a 58-58 score, it was going to come down to who wanted it more as both Tarleton and Southeastern Oklahoma hoped to keep their postseason hopes alive.
Stehling scored her 11th and 12th points of the ball game with a jumper coming out of the media time out and Wright added a turnaround, baby hook shot to put the TexAnns up 62-58.
In typical fashion though, the Storm went down and responded with a 3-pointer, their sixth made shot from deep.
Wright hit back-to-back pairs of free throws as Tarleton began to pound the ball inside to their three-time Player of the Week freshman center. This put the TexAnns ahead 66-61 with 8:58 on the clock.
A couple of miscues by SEOKU and a fast-break layup by Stehling gave Tarleton back some momentum and a seven-point advantage.
During this time, the TexAnns were holding the Storm to a 2:17 scoring drought while Tarleton was building a 9-2 run.
As the clock ticked under 6:00 to play, the TexAnns were starting to pull away inch-by-inch. Anytime SEOKU was able to get a basket, Tarleton would respond with a 3 or a couple of free throws to keep pushing the pace.
A 3 by Parker and a tough basket by Benford forced a timeout by the Storm with 5:11 remaining in the game as the visiting SEOKU squad faced a 76-65 Tarleton lead.
From that point on, the desperation of the Savage Storm became apparent as mental errors and hurried shots just added to the TexAnns’ already formidable advantage.
On a pair of Parker free throws at the 4:01 mark, Tarleton took their biggest lead of the game up to that point, 80-67. That allowed the TexAnns to start burning the clock and forcing SEOKU to try and foul their way back into the game.
Tarleton hit their free throws down the stretch however as Southeastern Oklahoma’s rally attempt fell short.
The TexAnns picked up their first ever NCAA tournament victory Friday with an 86-75 victory against Southeastern Oklahoma. It was also their first ever victory in Jack Dobbins Fieldhouse.
Overall for the game, Tarleton shot 45.8 percent from the field and went 26-of-37 from the charity stripe. The TexAnns were out-rebounded 41-34, but committed eight fewer turnovers than the Storm.
Adamson led all scorers with 19 points and went 3-for-3 from the field, 2-of-2 from deep, and 11-of-12 from the free-throw line. Stehling and Wright both added 14 points, while Parker added 10 points with a perfect day shooting from the floor.
Stehling also grabbed a team-high seven rebounds, with Towns adding six boards. Adamson led Tarleton with six assists.
Head coach Ronnie Hearne expressed his emotions after winning his getting his first NCAA tournament victory.
“It feels wonderful to get this win,” said Hearne. “I honestly didn’t’ realize it until about 7 seconds left. Then it finally kicked in and it’s just a really special felling. I’m glad I get to share it with a great group of young ladies, not just on the floor, but off the floor.”
Adamson credited her teammates for her performance on Friday.
“It was all about my teammates,” said Adamson. “We fight to stay together. It is critical to take care of the ball and distribute it around. We weren’t selfish and were able to force some turnovers. Even on nights when you’re not shooting well, if you win the hustle categories then you have a chance to win the game.”
After a close win against SEOKU in the LSC Tournament and a one-point loss earlier in the year, Stehling discussed the difference in tonight’s game.
“We didn’t want a repeat of last time,” said Stehling. “We knew we had to go on a run because they are a good shooting team and could get back in the game. It was important for us to keep the momentum in our favor.”