Trailing by 16 in the second quarter Saturday afternoon, the Stephen F. Austin Ladyjacks awoke to win their fifth straight, as they stormed back to knock off the Lamar Cardinals when Aiyana Johnson hit 1-of-2 free throws with 3.2 seconds remaining for a 54-53 win in Lamar’s Montagne Center.
The win pushed the Ladyjacks (15-3) to 8-1 in Southland Conference action and moved them into a first-place tie with idle Sam Houston State (13-5, 8-1 SLC).
Abilene Christian (15-2) is one-half game back at 7-1 after its 74-64 win over Central Arkansas (8-10, 4-5 SLC). Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (13-6, 7-2 SLC) is a full game back after blowing past Incarnate Word (8-9, 4-4 SLC), 64-38.
Winning in Beaumont has been a problem with the Ladyjacks as of late, with SFA head coach Mark Kellogg’s last win at Lamar (8-11, 4-6 SLC) coming during his first season (2015-16).
But SFA didn’t snap the two-game skid at LU the easy way, as the Ladyjacks struggled in the shooting department, hitting only 40% (22-of-55) from the field and an ugly 3-of-18 (16.7%) from behind the three-point arc.
The Cardinals didn’t fare any better in the shooting department, converting 36.2% (21-of-58) from the field and 4-of-15 (26.7%) behind the arc.
Stephanie Visscher recorded a double-double to lead SFA, dropping in 13 points, while pulling down a team-leading 11 boards and handing out three assists. Johnson chipped in 11 points, picking up three assists and pulled down nine rebounds.
Marissa Banfield, who leads SFA in three-point shooting, had an off-night, connecting on only 1-of-8 from behind the arc, posting just three points on the night.
A bright spot off the bench for SFA was freshman Zya Nugent, who led the Ladyjacks with 14 points. She also tallied three rebounds.
SFA erased most of the 16-point deficit by halftime, trailing 31-27 at the break.
The Ladyjacks led by six in the second half, but hand to hold on at the buzzer when LU’s Amber Vidal’s winner at the buzzer bounced off the rim.