March 15, 2009

*Courtesy of West Texas A&M athletics

CANYON, Texas - West Texas A&M defeated Emporia State, 86-83, Saturday night in the semifinals of NCAA Division II South Central Regional basketball action at the First United Bank Center in Canyon, Texas.

The win lifts WT to 27-5 for the season, while Emporia State finishes their season with a 26-6 record.

"This is what you do in playoffs, survive and advance," said head coach Krista Gerlich. "I felt like our girls really went to battle tonight and just wouldn't be denied."

Joni Unruh tallied 11 first-half points to help the Lady Buffs to a six point halftime advantage, 40-34. WT held an early eight-point lead, only to see the Hornets come back to tie the score. The Lady Buffs then responded by scoring eight of the final 10 points of the half.

The Lady Buffs opened the gap to 46-38 early in the second half, only to see the Hornets close to within 46-42. WT's Jamie Dreiling, playing at this point with three fouls, proceeded to put on an offensive show, accounting for the Lady Buffs' next seven points. She canned a three-pointer from the left wing to open the Lady Buff lead to 49-42 at the 16:36 mark of the second half. She then hit a lay-up at 15:32 to stretch the gap to 51-42. Moments later, she added a pair of free throws to give the Lady Buffs a 53-42 lead.

Emporia State suffered a blow when, at 14:22, post Ida Edwards left the game with an apparent leg injury. To that point, she had been the Hornet's leading scorer, with 14 points.

A jumper by Hornet guard Lacy Corker, followed seconds later by a corker free throw, cut the WT lead to 53-45. A pair of Ali Voken's free throws at 12:41 made the score 53-47.

The Lady Buffs countered with a three-point play by Megan McLain, as she hit a lay-up, was fouled by Emporia's Volkens, then made her free throw opportunity to put the Lady Buffs lead up to 56-47.

The WT lead was at 10 points, 60-50, when Lady Buff guard Holly Isaacs' nailed a three from the left corner, putting the Lady Buffs' up by a 63-50 margin and forcing Emporia State to call a timeout with 8:17 remaining in regulation.

Just over 30 seconds later, Isaacs drained another three-pointer, upping WT's lead to 66-50.

A lay-up by Emporia's Andrea Leiker, just before the eight-minute media timeout, closed the gap to 66-52 and Hornet guard Brittney Miller hit a three-pointer to narrow the deficit to 66-55 at 6:09 of the second half.

Emporia wasn't finished, however. A rally, capped by a Cossondra Boston three-pointer pulled the Hornets to within seven points, 74-67, with 2:19 remaining in regulation.

WT's Courtney Lee hit a 12-footer to up the Lady Buff lead to 76-67 with 1:59 to play. Four consecutive Dreiling free throws sandwiched an Emporia State three by Leiker, keeping the Lady Buffs on top, 79-73.

The Hornets pulled to within 80-78 on a tip-in by Allie Renberg, followed by a Renberg free throw with just 55 seconds to play.

On WT's next possession, Courtney Lee missed a short jumper, but WT maintained possession when the Hornets knocked the ball out of bounds with 28 seconds to play.

The game was far from over.

WT's Lee hit a pair of free throws with 24.9 seconds left to give the Lady Buffs an 82-78 lead. Emporia's Leiker hit a lay-up with 18.7 seconds remaining to cut the gap back to two points.

A quick foul against Dreiling saw the WT post hit both free throws, upping the margin back to four at 84-78.

Emporia's Jamie Augustyn nailed a three-pointer with 8.4 seconds remaining to cut the gap to one point, 84-83. But Dreiling finished the game with a pair of free throws with just 8.4 seconds to play to give the Lady Buffs the 86-83 win.

"The fans were huge for us tonight," Gerlich said. "There is no greater high than hitting that shot and hearing the crowd roar."

Dreiling led the Lady Buffs in scoring with 23 points, followed by Lee with 18 points, and Unruh with 15 points. Ceciley Johnson, Megan McLain and Dreiling each pulled down six boards. Dixie Bell dished out four assists.

The Lady Buffs face UCO in the DII NCAA South Central Regional Final game on Monday, March 16, at 7:00 p.m. CDT, at the First United Bank Center in Canyon, Texas.