WOLFFORTH—Let it fly.
The No. 6 South Plains College Lady Texans knocked down eight 3-pointers and shot 44 percent from beyond the arc to down Ranger College 61-46 in the opening round of the NJCAA Region V Tournament on Wednesday afternoon at the Tiger Pit.
Sophomore Brittany Smith scored a game-high 18 points and dished out six assists as the Lady Texans picked up their 10th win in the last 11 contests. Levelland native Elizabeth Cera shot 50 percent from the field knocking down four 3-balls and finished the game with 14 points in 31 minutes of action.
"We stepped up in the big time when we needed to step up," Smith said. "The first half wasn't what we wanted it to be, but after the talk with coach she just asked us to do what we needed to do and I think that's what our entire team did. We came out attacking more, and it started on defense and it turned into offense."
Trailing 8-6 after one quarter, South Plains used a 9-3 run early in the second to take a 17-12 lead with 5:13 left before the half. Cera and Taylor Holley hit consecutive 3-pointers to give the Lady Texans a 12-8 advantage. Yanina Inkina would then connect on a jumper from the left elbow to extend the lead to five. Smith would end the first half with a trey from the top of the key with 25 ticks left before the break sending South Plains into the locker room leading 27-16.
"I guess I was just a little off in the first quarter, but coach Petree just told me I need to play my game and don't try to do too much," Cera said. "I wasn't really trying to get open, so I had to run the plays and set some screens and look for the open spot."
Petree's advice worked. Again.
Cera took the rock and hit home with a trio of 3-balls, the third coming with 3:36 left in the third quarter to extend the Lady Texans' lead to 40-25. Smith would add insult to injury as the Houston native bucketed a 3-ball of her own with 1:08 remaining in the third to push the lead to 47-25.
"I think the attention other teams put on the other people on the floor gets me buckets," Smith said. "Elizabeth, Jasauen and Yanina draw a lot of attention, so most of the time people just leave me unattended and I just have to make the play."
Jasauen Beard and Inkina each finished with eight points for South Plains as the Lady Texans shot 45 percent from the field in the contest. South Plains held the Lady Rangers to a 34 percent shooting mark and forced 19 turnovers on the defensive end.
"In the second half I thought we were much more aggressive and played much more like ourselves, and I'm really proud to come away with the win," South Plains head coach Cayla Petree said. "Ranger is a very good team and they have improved a lot since the scrimmage earlier in the year. I'm happy to get this win and we're ready to focus on Collin."
South Plains will now shift their focus to the semifinal round where they will take on the Collin County Lady Cougars at 1 p.m. on Friday at the Tiger Pit. You can watch the game live by visiting spctexans.com and clicking on the 'Watch Games' tab at the top of the page.