LUBBOCK—Jasauen Beard knew her second chance would come soon enough. The exact moment, however, remained uncertain.
It would be safe to say that opportunity arrived on Monday in the opening round of the 2017 NJCAA Division I Women's Basketball National Tournament at the Rip Griffin Center as Beard scored a career-high 32 points to lead the No. 9 seeded Lady Texans past the No. 24 seed in Monroe College 85-73.
"When I came here it was kind of like a second chance type thing," Beard said. "One of the things we talked about in recruiting was winning a national championship. That's one of the reasons I came here and had a chip on my shoulder. It seems like it's just one step closer to what we've been working for all year."
Leading 60-52 heading into the final 10 minutes of regulation, the Lady Texans watched their lead get cut to just one when Monroe's Lisana Burnett converted at the rim in traffic midway through the fourth.
Following a timeout from Lady Mustangs' head coach Ricky Johns, the South Plains' faithful rose to their feet.
Beard seemed to feed off the energy as the Midwest City, Oklahoma native proceeded to lead the Lady Texans on an 11-2 run, scoring 15 of her 24 second half points in the final stint as South Plains extended its lead to 10 on a pair of free throws from Brittany Smith with 33 seconds remaining.
"I just felt like everything started to flow when Britt started to see cutters," Beard said. "When our motion started, it helped my shot. It helped me get to the rim and hit free throws, it helped me hit layups and crashing the boards helped me get putbacks."
Trailing 17-11 after on quarter, South Plains found its rhythm outscoring the Lady Mustangs 26-14 in the second quarter thanks to a 66 percent shooting mark. The Lady Texans would go on to lead 37-31 at the half as Yanina Inkina led all scorers with 13 of her final 22 points in the first half. South Plains continued to find success with the rock over the next two quarters shooting 52 percent throughout the final 20 minutes.
"I'm really happy and proud of my teammates and coaches," Inkina said. "We did a great job. We played so hard, with passion and with our heads. Like coach said, in the beginning we made a lot of turnovers, but in the second half really stepped up."
The Lady Texans took full advantage of their opportunities from the charity stripe, knocking down 33 of 39 attempts while committing just 15 fouls and limiting the Lady Mustangs to just 15 attempts from the line. Beard would add 13 boards to her stat line while Elizabeth Cera chipped in 13 points for the Lady Texans.
"We talked about how much fun it's been to play all year, and it's been an unbelievable ride and we were so close," South Plains head coach Cayla Petree said. "I think we said 'we're only three minutes away from doing what we wanted to do.' I know they were tired, our bench is pretty short and they had to show a lot of toughness down the stretch. I thought we did a good job of not having those empty possessions late and they finished the game and they did their job."
South Plains(28-5) will now advance to the round of 16 on Tuesday when they take on the No. 8 seed in Seward County(31-2) at 4 p.m.