March 13, 2009

CANYON, Texas - West Texas A&M continued their momentum from the LSC Tournament in their 78-53 defeat of Abilene Christian in the first round of NCAA Division II South Central Regional basketball action at the First United Bank Center in Canyon, Texas.

The win lifts WT to 26-5 for the season, while ACU ends their campaign with a 18-11 mark.

"I was really proud of the girls, of their performance and energy level," said head coach Krista Gerlich. "They are playing with confidence and a lot of energy and focus. I'm very pleased with the effort."

WT controlled the tip and Jamie Dreiling (senior, forward, Lake Kiowa, Texas) started the scoring with a layup. Abilene Christian answered and the teams battled back and forth for the first eight minutes of the game, with WT edging slighty ahead with a Courtney Lee (senior, guard, Arlington, Texas) three and a three-point play by Dreiling. Despite an injured left hand, at the 11 minute mark, Lee drove to the basket to pick up a layup and a free throw, giving the Lady Buffs a 10 point lead.

Abilene Christian controlled the offensive boards, picking up nine by the 7:45 mark, and totaling 14 rebounds over the Lady Buffs eight total boards. A jumper by Megan McLain (sophomore, guard, Channing, Texas) maintained an eight-point lead for the Lady Buffs. Joni Unruh (sophomore, guard, Amarillo, Texas) missed a driving layup, but Cherilyn McMenamy (sophomore, forward, Canyon, Texas) was there for the offensive rebound and put-back.

Holly Isaacs (junior, guard, Brownfield, Texas) nailed her first three of the game, giving the momentum to the Lady Buffs. A defensive stop led to a Wildcat foul, putting Lee on the line for two free throws. A steal and layup by Dreiling gave WT an 11-point lead with 3:48 left in the half. The Lady Buffs strong defense created a Wildcat shot clock violation, which led to a three-point play by Ashley Leven (freshman, forward, Amarillo, Texas). ACU turned the ball over on their next possession and WT took advantage with another trey by Lee, her second of the game.

McLain hit a trey late in the half to give the WT a 20-point lead, their largest of the game to that point. The Lady Buffs finished the first half with an 18-point lead and a score of 46-28. WT shot an impressive 57.1 percent from the field in the first half, making 16 of 28 attempts. They shot 55.6 percent from the three-point line and a near perfect 90.0 percent from the charity stripe.

Leading the Wildcats in scoring in the first half was Jody Meyer (junior, forward, Round Rock, Texas) and Kristee Davidson (senior, forward, Fort Worth, Texas), both with eight points. Meyer also led the team in rebounds with five. The Wildcats shot 34.4 percent from the field, 60.0 percent from the free throw line, and did not make a three pointer in the first half.

Lee led the team in scoring in the first half with 13 points, followed by Dreiling with nine points. Unruh led the team in rebounding, pulling down six boards. Isaacs tallied four assists in the first half.

Unruh put in a layup in the first Lady Buff possession of the second half. ACU answered with their first three-pointer of the game. Lee tallied the next seven Lady Buff points, scoring a layup from an offensive board and knocking down an open three in the corner. A block shot and foul on the block by Leven led to her second three point play of the game and a 22-point margin, the largest of the game.

WT went on a 14-2 run, with Lee recording her fourth three of the game and WT increasing their lead to 29 points over the Wildcats. Emily Brister (senior, guard, Amarillo, Texas) made an appearance on the court for the first time since her injury. The Lady Buffs maintained their comfortable lead throughout the game, finishing with a 25-point lead over Abilene Christian and a final score of 78-53.

"What a courageous performance by Courtney Lee," Gerlich said.

Lee's injured hand did not hinder her as she led the Lady Buffs in scoring and tallied a career high 25 points. She missed only one field goal all night, shooting 9-10 from the field, 4-4 from three-point land, and 3-3 from the free throw line. Leven met her career high with 12 points. Unruh also scored double-digits with 10 points and led the team in rebounds with six.

WT continues their postseason play on Saturday, March 14, taking on #4-seeded Emporia State in semifinal action of the Division II NCAA South Central Regional tournament. Tipoff is set for 8:00 p.m. CST.