Ladyjacks Lose Heartbreaker to Lancers in Championship

LAS VEGAS, NV. – The Stephen F. Austin women’s basketball team (21-12, 15-7) fell just short to the California Baptist Lancers (28-3, 19-2) in the WAC Championship game with the Lancers winning a 75-74 nailbiter over SFA.

The Ladyjacks would get the scoring started in the championship game as after winning the opening jump ball, Tyler McCliment-Call wasted no time showcasing her unlimited range as she would knock down her first three-pointer of the game just 20 seconds in to give SFA an early 3-0 lead. Following a basket from CBU, Kurstyn Harden continued her reign of terror as she would rattle off four straight points for SFA to push their lead to 7-2 three minutes into the opening quarter. Following the teams exchanging a basket each, McCliment-Call continued her strong opening quarter as she drained her second shot from beyond the arc to extend the SFA lead to 12-5 halfway through the first. The last half of the first quarter would belong to CBU as they would end the first on an 8-3 scoring run, as three points from Trinity Moore were quickly offset by the Lancers. However, at the end of the first, SFA still held a slim 15-13 lead heading into the second.

SFA opened up the second quarter on a 6-2 scoring run thanks to four points from Kurstyn Harden and a basket from Avery VanSickle to keep SFA in the lead 21-15. Following a pair of CBU baskets that cut the SFA lead to four points at 23-19, the Ladyjacks three-point shooting found their groove once again as Avery VanSickle and Kyla Deck would make back-to-back three-pointers for SFA to extend their lead to double-digits at 29-19 halfway through the second. Chloe Webb would score four straight points for CBU, however, those points were quickly offset by three points from Kurstyn Harden and a pair of free-throws from Kyla Deck and SFA still maintained a steady 11-point lead at 34-23 with three minutes left in the second. The Lancers would make a pair of three-pointers to trim the SFA lead to five points at 34-29, however, Avery VanSickle responded with a triple of her own, and her second of the quarter, to close out scoring for both teams in the second as SFA went into the locker rooms ahead 37-29 over CBU.

The Lancers would open up the second half on a 12-4 scoring run as they would turn an eight-point deficit into a tie game at 41 apiece four minutes into the third quarter. The two schools would exchange a pair of baskets each at the midway point of the third as a basket from Kurstyn Harden and a three-pointer from Destini Lombard were matched by two baskets from CBU, with the Ladyjacks still holding a slim 46-45 halfway through the third. A mini 3-0 scoring run by CBU launched them into the lead at 48-46, however, the lead was short-lived as 30 seconds later Avery VanSickle would drain her third triple of the game to push SFA back in the lead 49-48 with two minutes left in the quarter. VanSickle’s three-pointer would help spark a 7-0 scoring run by SFA to end the third quarter as points from Lydia Cooke-Wiggins, VanSickle, and Kurstyn Harden would close out scoring for the third with SFA still maintaining a 53-48 lead over the Lancers.

The fourth quarter saw the Lancers knock down a pair of free-throws to pull within three of SFA, however, Lydia Cooke-Wiggins got into the three-point frenzy for SFA as she knocked down her first triple of the game to push SFA back ahead by six at 56-50. The Lancers would go on a 4-0 scoring run, however, a basket from Tyler McCliment-Call would keep SFA ahead by three points at 58-55. McCliment-Call’s basket would help spark a 6-0 scoring run from SFA that saw both Destini Lombard and Kurstyn Harden knock down a basket and push SFA’s lead further ahead to 62-55 with six minutes remaining in the game. At the midway point of the quarter, the teams exchanged a pair of baskets as Kurstyn Harden continued her dominating game by rattling off four straight points for SFA, however, those were quickly offset by the Lancers with SFA still maintaining a 66-59 lead at the halfway point of the fourth. The Lancers would find their stride late in the fourth as they would go on a 12-0 scoring run to take a 71-66 lead over SFA with two minutes remaining. The Ladyjacks would not back down easily as Kyla Deck would splash a three-pointer for SFA with 30 seconds left to bring SFA back to within two points at 71-69. The Lancers would knock down a pair of free-throws to reclaim a four-point lead, however, the Ladyjacks once again fought back as Kurstyn Harden would knock down a jumper with 10 seconds left to bring SFA to within two points once again at 73-71. The Lancers would tack on two more free-throws and led 75-71, however, the Ladyjacks once again refused to go away as Avery VanSickle would knock down her fourth triple of the game to bring SFA to within a point with three seconds left. Unfortunately, that would be all the scoring for this one as CBU came away with a 75-74 win.

Kurstyn Harden made her impact felt in these WAC playoffs as she posted another dominating scoring game against the Lancers. Harden finished today’s game with arguably one of her best all-around performances this season as she posted her ninth double-double this season with a 26-point, 12-rebound performance both of which led all Ladyjacks. Avery VanSickle formed a potent outside scoring duo to compliment Harden as she drained a team-high four three-pointers in route to a 16-point performance, while pulling down seven rebounds. Kyla Deck rounded out the top scorers for SFA with her 10-point, three-assist, one-block, two-steal performance. Destini Lombard stuffed the statsheet yet again for SFA as she finished with seven points, nine rebounds, led the team with eight assists, while adding two blocks and three steals defensively. Tyler McCliment-Call finished with eight points and five rebounds as she, Kyla DeckDestini Lombard, and Lydia Cooke-Wiggins all made at least one three-pointer today for SFA.

The Ladyjacks drained 10 three-pointers today, while making 27 shots from the field, and making 10 free-throws. SFA’s bench produced admirably today as they posted 23 bench points, while turning five blocks and eight steals into 12 points off turnovers. Meanwhile, Kurstyn Harden helped lead another solid game in the paint for the Ladyjacks as they posted 30 points in the paint today, while playing selfless basketball today by totaling 22 assists as a team.

The Ladyjacks finish a remarkable first season under Head Coach Leonard Bishop with a 21-12 record, making it to the WAC Championship for the second time in three years, while winning over 20 games for the eighth consecutive season. The Ladyjacks went 12-4 at the Sawmill this season, finished 14-6 in conference play, while ranking as the second highest scoring offense in the WAC this season.

The Ladyjacks season may continue beyond today as there is still possible postseason action in the running for SFA. To keep up with all the Ladyjacks news and possible playoff outcomes, be sure to stay tuned in with the Ladyjacks on social media as well as the SFA Athletics website for all the updated news regarding playoffs for SFA.

By: Peter Trainor, Student Assistant for Strategic Communications