ALLEN, Texas – A pesky No. 8-seed Cameron pushed the top-seeded sixth nationally West Texas A&M Lady Buffs to the limit, but the Lady Buffs held on for a hard-fought, 64-53 victory in the first round of the Lone Star Conference Championship at the Allen Event Center Wednesday evening. With the win, the Lady Buffs improved to 25-2 on the year, while Cameron ended its season at 13-14.
“Cameron played really well, they took us out of our rhythm offensively for pretty much the whole game,” head coach Mark Kellogg said. “This has happened before as I gave my story at Fort Lewis when we lost in the national championship, we banked in a three at the buzzer at home in the first game of the conference tournament and we went on to do some really good things.
“We need this, we haven’t had this throughout the year as we haven’t been in these types of games and we have to learn to relish this,” Kellogg added. “It’s hard for us to do that right now, to relish these types of games in grinding them out and get defensive stops, and I think we will draw on this experience moving forward.”
West Texas A&M senior Devin Griffin led the way with 21 points and pulled down nine rebounds as she was 8 of 23 from the field and 5 of 7 from the line. The 23 attempts were the most this season. Senior Casey Land added 16 points on 4 of 13 shooting and 4 of 7 from beyond the arc. She made four crucial free throws in the closing minutes to seal the win.
As a team, the Lady Buffs had their worst shooting performance of the season at 31.7 percent on 19 of 60 from the floor. They were 7 of 19 from beyond the arc for a 36.8 percent and were 19 of 24 from the line. WT out-rebounded Cameron 40-38 and 15-10 on the offensive end, as well as forcing 24 turnovers and recording 10 steals. The 64 points also tied their season low matched vs. Northeastern State in the season-opener (W, 64-55) and in a 78-64 loss at then-No. 3 Emporia State.
“I want to tip my hat to Cameron as they played really well and took us out of our offensive rhythm,” Land said in the postgame press conference. “We found a way and we came in the locker at halftime and said we were getting the looks, but we just needed to finish.”
The upstart Aggies had upset on their minds for the entire game as they didn’t shoot much better at 19 of 52 from the field for 36.5 percent. They also made seven triples on 17 attempts and were 8 of 13 from the line.
Second half free throw shooting was key for the Lady Buffs as the continued to fight and claw their way to the bucket, going 11 of 16 in the second stanza from the charity stripe compared to 4 of 6 for Cameron.
The Lady Buffs now will await the winner of the 4/5 matchup between Midwestern State and Angelo State. That game is scheduled for tomorrow at 6 p.m. The winner of that game will play WT Friday at 6 p.m. for a berth in Saturday’s championship.
Cameron jumped out to an early 6-0 lead, but a triple from Land got the Lady Buffs on the board with 16:49 left. Land then had her second steal of the game and finished with five for the contest, as a jumper by senior Lacee Logan cut the deficit to 6-5.
Land drained her second triple for the first WT lead at 8-7 with 14 minutes remaining in the first half. Land then fed junior Jordan Vessels for an easy two and a 10-7, lead moments later. CU started 3 for 6, but missed its next five shots as the Lady Buff “D” stiffened.
WT used a 12-1 run over the next 5:18 as it forced seven turnovers during the run with 11:38 left and a 12-7 advantage. WT extended the run to 16-3 as freshman Maddison Wild scored inside for a 16-9 lead with 10:17 left in the first half and a timeout by the Aggies.
Two free throws by junior Chontiquah White and a steal and layup by senior Devin Griffin on the in-bounds gave WT a 20-12 lead with 7:45 left. White then scored a hoop-and-harm foul with 6:45 remaining as she eclipsed 1,000 points in her career as she finished the game with seven points and now has 1,003 for her career. White became the second Lady Buff to eclipse 1,000 points this season as Griffin achieved the feat earlier in the season.
A hoop-and-harm foul for CU and a jumper by Jazzmine Robinson brought Cameron within 20-19 with 6:35 left in the half for a 7-0 run over the last 1:25. Griffin ended the run with two charity tosses for a 22-19 lead.
CU’s Ali Brown tied the game at 22 on the other end with a triple in the corner, her second of the game. After a layup from Griffin, Land buried her third triple in transition for a 27-22 lead.
Another triple from Brown gave Cameron its first lead since early in the game at 30-29 with a minute left in the half as it led by that margin at intermission. It marked just the fifth time this season WT had trailed at halftime.
For the half, WT shot just 29 percent on 9 of 13 from the field. It was 3 of 10 from beyond the arc and 8 of 8 from the line. Land led the way with nine points on 3 of 9 from the field and three triples.
Cameron shot 42.3 percent from the field on 11 of 26. The Aggies were 4 of 8 from beyond the arc courtesy of four triples off the bench from Brown who was 5 of 8 from the field and 4 of 4 from range. CU was 4 of 7 from the line and held a 22-17 lead in rebounding.
A steal by senior Lacee Logan and a triple from senior Raven Gerald gave WT a 34-33 lead with 17:03 left, followed by a Cameron miscue. Griffin then scored on the inside for a 37-35 lead. She then extended the lead to 39-36 with 14:29 left with a floater in the lane.
Back-to-back triples from Cameron gave the Aggies a 44-42 lead with 11:37 left as they connected on 7 of 13 to that point. A big triple from Vessels gave the lead back to WT with 10:38 remaining. Vessels then hit her second for a 48-44 lead as the partisan WT crowd began chanting “Defense.”
The pesky Aggies wouldn’t go away as the scored a layup and a steal and score to tie the game at 48 forcing WT into a timeout.
A big bucket and free throw by White gave WT a 53-48 lead with 6:45 left. It was White’s first field goal of the game.
Two free throws by junior Chontiquah White gave WT a 55-51 lead with 3:45 left. Griffin hit two free throws for a 57-53 lead with two minutes remaining. A jumper by Griffin with 1:04 left gave WT a 59-53 lead with less than a minute left for the first WT field goal since the 6:54 mark. Land scored two free throws for a 61-53 lead and went on for the 64-53 victory.
WT ended the game on a 9-0 run in the final two minutes of the game. It was the second consecutive game the Lady Buffs ended a game with a big run as they finished the game last Saturday at Eastern New Mexico with a 14-0 run over the final 4:45.