South Plains defense smothers Georgia Highlands for 65-49 victory
LUBBOCK, Texas – The South Plains College women’s basketball team slogged much of the first half of its opening game of the NJCAA Women’s Division I National Tournament on Wednesday at the Rip Griffin Center.
The Lady Texans’ defense, however, was on point from the start, and that helped them overcome the offensive sluggishness en route to a 65-49 victory over Georgia Highlands in a second-round contest.
South Plains (20-3) held a Georgia Highlands (21-4) team that came into the national tournament averaging 80.3 points per game to just 49 points, 22 below its lowest scoring effort of the season. The Lady Chargers shot just 23.4 percent (15 of 64) from the field.
“I thought the kids played really well defensively,” SPC head coach Ara Baten said. “Georgia Highlands is really good defensively, too, and they create a lot of havoc and caused us some problems. We turned the ball over a lot more than I wanted to, but defensively we were really strong. It was nothing different than we normally do. We tried to keep the ball in front of us, contest shots and rebound, and we did a good job of that.”
With the win, the Lady Texans advance to face the winner of Wednesday’s game between Northwest Florida State and Otero College at 5 p.m. on Thursday. Georgia Highlands ends its season at 21-4.
South Plains came into the tournament with one of the top defenses in the country, ranked No. 9 in the country allowing just 54.3 points per game. That defense really showed up in the second and third quarter when the Lady Chargers shot just 20 percent (6 of 30) combined for the two periods.
That allowed the Lady Texans’ offense to overcome its sluggish start and find its rhythm.
Trailing 20-19, South Plains outscored Georgia Highlands 14-4 over the final seven minutes of the second quarter, capped by a 3-pointer from the corner by sophomore guard Shayla Moseberry with 3.1 seconds left that came after a trey from Georgia Highlands’ Alexandra Shishkina pulled the Lady Chargers within six just a few moments earlier.
Then, leading 33-24 at halftime, the Lady Texans outscored Georgia Highlands 14-7 in the third period to put the Lady Chargers at arm’s length, 47-31, going into the final eight minutes, where Moseberry hit four of her five 3-pointers to help seal the win.
“We hit some big shots,” Baten said of the second quarter. “We were having trouble and were a little out of sync, but we had a couple of kids hit some big threes and that made a big difference. In the later part of the second quarter we hit a couple of shots that kind of got us going. I’m proud of the kids.”
Despite slogging through much of the first half, the Lady Texans didn’t play that badly, in retrospect. They shot 61.5 percent from the field in the first quarter and 52 percent (13 of 25) in the first half, but it was their defense that allowed them to build some distance between themselves and the Lady Chargers late in the second quarter.
South Plains also dominated on the boards, outrebounding Georgia Highlands 24-14 through the first 16 minutes. About the only thing keeping the Lady Chargers in the game in the first half was what kept SPC from dominating more – turnovers. The Lady Texans coughed up the ball 16 times, which led to 15 points for Georgia Highlands.
SPC finished the game with a 44-28 edge in rebounding but turned the ball over 35 times that led to 21 Georgia Highlands points, but only six after halftime.
Viktoria Ivanova led the Lady Texans with 17 points and was 3 of 7 from 3-point range. Moseberry finished with 16 points and was 5 of 6 from long range while Grace Hunter added 11 points.
Rasheka Simmons and Crystal Corley led Georgia Highlands with 10 points apiece.