March 16, 2009

CANYON, Texas - West Texas A&M held off Central Oklahoma, 65-52, Monday night in the finals of the NCAA Division II South Central Regional basketball tournament at the First United Bank Center in Canyon, Texas. This is the first time for the team to advance to the Elite Eight since the 96-97 season.

The win lifts WT to 27-5 for the season, while UCO finishes the season with an overall record of 26-6.

"What a great game," said head coach Krisa Gerlich. "It was the kind of game that you hate that someone has to lose. Our girls just rose to the challenge and were not going to be denied."

The game was played like the two teams were very acquainted with one another, as both teams struggled to get going, offensively, with UCO holding an 8-7 lead eight minutes into the contest.

The Lady Buffs then went on a six-point mini-run, courtesy of back-to-back three pointers by Courtney Lee and Holly Isaacs,to open a 13-8 advantage by the 7:35 mark of the first half. A jumper by Lady Buff guard Megan McLain put WT ahead by nine points just inside the seven-minute mark.

A pair of free throws by Broncho Ashley Beckley slowed the run, but McLain answered with another jumper to keep the Lady Buffs ahead, 17-10. The Bronchos then put up six straight points on a pair of free throws by Cristina Yarbrough and a pair of Ashley Beckley lay-ups.

A jumper by WT's Cherilyn McMenamy gave the Lady Buffs a 19-16 lead before a Courtney Allen three-pointer knotted the score at 19-19.

WT retook a 21-19 lead on a Jamie Dreiling jumper with 1:46 remaining in the half. Neither team would score over the remainder of the first stanza.

The Lady Buffs opened the second half by holding the Bronchos' scoreless over the first 2:42, while scoring the first six points of the half. A pair of Dreiling free throws and layups by Dreiling and Courtney Lee put WT up 27-19. Lizzie Brenner's three-pointer at 17:18 broke the UCO drought. Rose Anderson then hit a three of her own to pull UCO back to within 27-25.

A jumper by Lee and a three-pointer by Holly Isaacs sandwiched a jumper by UCO's Traci Murphree to boost the Lady Buff advantage to 32-27. Another Isaacs three-pointer put WT up 35-27 before UCO added a lay-up by Mallory Markus.

WT managed to hold a four point lead, 45-41 at the 6:50 mark of the second half. A pair of Lee free throws, a Dreiling layup and a three-pointer by McLain and the Lady Buffs suddenly had their biggest lead of the game, 54-44, with 3:17 remaining.

The Lady Buffs would maintain the lead through the final minutes, leading by a 16-point margin with 10 seconds left in the game. The final shot of the game was a trey by UCO's Krista Beaty for a final score of 65-52.

Dreiling led all scorers with 21 points, followed by Lee with 16, and Isaacs with 11. Dreiling and Unruh each pulled down eight rebounds. WT shot 47.7 percent from the field for the game and registered 42 rebounds to UCO's 25.

"This is all about the journey," Gerlich said. "We do not want to go to the Elite Eight just to be a part of it, we want to go and win."

Courtney Lee was selected as the tournament MVP. Other all-Tournament team selections were Jamie Dreiling, UCO's Lizzie Brenner and Ashley Beckley, and Emporia State's Ida Edwards.

The Lady Buffs will now move on to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight, where they will face Delta State on Tuesday, March 24, at the Bill Greehey Arena in San Antonio, Texas.