Work in Sports
Beat the clock
Jackson's 3-pointer gives La. Tech Sun Belt crown
Posted: Saturday March 11, 2000 11:58 PM
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) -- Western Kentucky coach Steve Small believes in moral victories.
The Lady Toppers trailed No. 3 Louisiana Tech by 21 at halftime of the Sun Belt championship game. But they battled back to tie it down the stretch before losing 97-94 on Tamicha Jackson's long 3-pointer with 1.2 seconds remaining.
"I thought the second half was the best half of basketball any Lady Topper team has ever played," said a teary-eyed Small, who had trouble keeping his composure as he spoke about his team's effort. "It was all guts and heart, which was what our season has been all about."
Betty Lennox, the tournament MVP, scored 25 points and Jackson 21 for the Lady Techsters (28-2), who earned an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament with their 18th straight victory.
Jamie Britt had 23 points, and Jaime Walz had 22 points and 10 assists to lead five players in double figures for Western Kentucky (21-9), which had its six-game winning streak snapped.
Louisiana Tech looked to have the game and the tournament wrapped up early.
The Lady Techsters led by as many as 22 points early in the second half and looked to be a cinch to win their fifth straight Sun Belt tournament title.
"There wasn't a whole lot of coaching going on at halftime," Small said. "Instead, it was a lot of reach down and see what you're made of kind of stuff."
Western Kentucky (21-9) responded by using a 15-4 run to pull to 81-79 with 6:14 left. Jackson's steal and layup put the Lady Techsters back on top 92-88 with 2:40 to play. But Walz hit a free throw and a 3-pointer to tie it 92-92 with 2:02 remaining.
Louisiana Tech's Ayana Walker then scored inside and Western Kentucky's ShaRae Mansfield made two free throws with 1:32 to play to set up the dramatic finish.
"Steve Small can coach people," Louisiana Tech coach Leon Barmore said. "We didn't blow a 21-point halftime lead. They just played hard and caught up.
"But I thought it was appropriate that a senior stepped up and hit the big shot for us."
Following a timeout by Louisiana Tech with 10 seconds to play, Jackson took the ball, dribbled near mid-court for several seconds, made a quick move toward the basket and launched a shot from well beyond the 3-point line.
"I kind of felt like it was going to go in," said Jackson, the conference's defensive player of the year. "I saw it go in before I took it. You have to believe it's going to go in if you're going to take it."
Western Kentucky tried to inbound the ball, but did not have enough time to get a shot off before the buzzer.
"This is an unbelievable team that laid it all on the line ... and I really thought we deserved to win," said a sobbing Mansfield, who had 19 points and six rebounds. "It hurts so bad that we didn't win. But I'm so proud of this team."
Catrina Frierson scored 19 points, and Walker had 17 points and 16 rebounds as the Lady Techsters shot 51 percent from the floor and outrebounded the Lady Toppers 36-32.
Natalie Powers added 17 points and Shatika Hutcherson had 11 as
Western Kentucky made 73 percent of its shots and 18-of-20 free
throws to outscore the Lady Techsters 61-43 in the second half.