Ladyjacks Axe Lopes on Senior Day

NACOGDOCHES, Texas. – The Stephen F. Austin women’s basketball team (19-10, 13-5) used a strong third quarter where they outscored the Grand Canyon University Lopes (24-6, 16-3) 29-15 to spark a late second half rally to claim an 85-77 win over the Lopes on senior day at the Sawmill, helping SFA to sweep the season series over GCU.

GCU wasted no time getting the scoring started as they looked to extend their winning streak to four games. The Lopes rattled off the first six points of the contest thanks to four points from Jada Holland and held a 6-0 lead two minutes into the first quarter. However, the Ladyjacks would find their stride shortly after as they came roaring back on a 9-0 scoring run of their own thanks to baskets from Tyler McCliment-CallKurstyn Harden, and five points including a three-pointer from Kyla Deck to storm back and take a 9-6 lead. The lead would swing back in the Lopes favor as halfway through the first they would score seven of the next eight points and retook a 13-10 lead with three minutes left in the first. Kurstyn Harden and Mele Finau would both score points for SFA over the final three minutes, however, it was GCU doing the majority of the scoring as they would end the first on a 8-3 scoring run and held a 21-13 lead after the first quarter.

The second quarter saw Kurstyn Harden make a basket which was followed shortly by a three-pointer from Avery VanSickle to help offset four GCU points with SFA still trailing 25-18 two minutes into the fourth. Following the VanSickle three-pointer for SFA, the Lopes would go on another mini scoring run, a 6-0 run to extend their lead to 13 points at 31-18. Following the halfway point of the second quarter which saw both teams exchange baskets at a fairly even rate, the Lopes still found themselves ahead 40-27 with three minutes remaining in the second, as points from Kurstyn HardenLydia Cooke-WigginsDestini Lombard, and Tyler McCliment-Call were quickly offset by Grand Canyon to keep them ahead by double-digits. The final three minutes offered much of the same back-and-forth scoring from both sides as Destini Lombard would score seven of the final nine points of the quarter for SFA with GCU answering almost basket-for-basket as they still held a 47-36 lead at the half. 

The halftime break seemed to do the Ladyjacks good as they came out of the locker room firing on all cylinders as they opened up the second half on a 9-0 scoring run thanks to a three-pointer from Destini Lombard, and consecutive three-point plays from Kyla Deck and Kurstyn Harden to close the GCU lead down to just two points at 47-45. The next three minutes offered much of the same exchanging points pace of play that most of the game had seen with GCU increasing their lead back up to five points at 56-51 halfway through the third. However, the Ladyjacks would finally start to chip away at GCU and prevent the Lopes from answering every bucket as six straight points from Kyla Deck helped tie the game at 60 apiece with less than two minutes remaining in the third. The Ladyjacks would score five of the last seven points of the quarter as another layup from Kurstyn Harden led to a Tyler McCliment-Call triple with 30 seconds left in the quarter to give SFA their first lead since the first quarter at 65-62 heading into the final quarter. The Ladyjacks ended the third quarter on a 14-6 scoring run helping to spark them to their first lead in nearly two quarters.  

The Lopes would promptly respond to the SFA lead with five consecutive points to open the fourth quarter and they regained a slim 67-65 lead early into the fourth. Back-to-back layups from Destini Lombard and another basket in the paint for Kurstyn Harden helped spark a mini 6-2 scoring run for SFA to shift the lead back into SFA’s favor at 71-69. The majority of the fourth quarter offered a much more defensive battle waged between the two schools as with three minutes remaining GCU still held a slim 74-73 lead over SFA. However, the Ladyjacks saved their best for last on senior day as the final three minutes saw SFA take complete control of the game with a 12-3 scoring run to seal the win over GCU. The run got started thanks to a pair of free-throws from Kurstyn Harden, which was followed up with another three-pointer from Tyler McCliment-Call to give SFA a 78-74 lead with 90 seconds left. Kurstyn Harden would move the lead to six points thanks to another layup, and following a free-throw for GCU, Destini Lombard and Trinity Moore would make four straight free-throws to all but ice away the win for SFA as they now led 84-75 with 20 seconds left. The Lopes would score one more basket to try and mount an improbable comeback, however, one final Kurstyn Harden free-throw at the Sawmill helped ensure no chance for a comeback from the Lopes as SFA walked away with an 85-77 win over the Lopes.

Kurstyn Harden made sure to remind Ladyjacks fans of what she has done all season long in her last game at the Sawmill as she posted 23 points to lead all ‘Jacks, led the team with four assists, and tied for the team lead in rebounds with seven. SFA’s recent surge of success can largely be contributed to Harden who has now scored 20+ points in three straight contests while posting at least 20 points in six of her last eight games. Destini Lombard continues to form a dynamic duo with Harden as Lombard posted her second straight game with double-digit points, finishing with 18 while tying with Harden for the team lead in rebounds with seven, dishing out three assists, and proving her value defensively with another three steals. Kyla Deck continues to string together strong performances for SFA at just the right time as she has now scored double-digit points in four of her last five games finishing today’s game with 16 points, while tying Lombard with three steals of her own. Tyler McCliment-Call rounded out the top scorers for SFA as she finished with 10 points, flashing her shooting range with a pair of clutch three-pointers to help spark a late SFA rally. All five starters for SFA recorded at least seven points, two rebounds, and one assist while all five played at least 30 minutes.

The Ladyjacks saved their best shooting for last as they shot a season-high 61.2% from the field in the final home game of the season, and shot above 45% from the field in all four quarters. The Ladyjacks made six three-pointers while shooting 50% from downtown, and made 19 free-throws to round out the strong day of shooting. It was the low post scoring for SFA today that helped spark the second-half rally as they posted 42 points in the paint led by Kurstyn Harden and have now scored over 80 points as a team in five straight contests.

Mele Finau and Kurstyn Harden were the two graduating seniors who were celebrated and honored post game by SFA for senior day for all the hard work they have contributed to the Ladyjacks and the SFA Women’s Basketball Program. Harden and Finau have both played significant roles in the Ladyjacks success, and as SFA prepares for the WAC Tournament in Las Vegas, they will look for both players to continue their superb seasons into the playoffs.

The Ladyjacks will hit the road for their final two matches of the season as they will play a pair of games in Utah starting when they meet the Southern Utah University Thunderbirds on March 7th in Cedar City, Utah, where tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. CST.

By: Peter Trainor, Student Assistant for Strategic Communications