LEVELLAND — Next possession mentality.
A phrase heard often from South Plains women's basketball coach Cayla Petree. For a Lady Texan team looking to ink their first win in conference play, South Plains utilized that mentality to down Western Texas 53-51 on Thursday night at the Texan Dome.
"I could sense a change in our team after the Howard loss," Petree said. "Even though we didn't get a validation win against New Mexico, I thought we played as well as we could play. I don't believe in moral victories, but I thought we battled, and if we could display that same kind of effort, we would put our chance in a position to win ball games. We had next play mentality nearly every possession, and the five that were on the floor for the majority of the game showed great toughness."
Following a 6-2 run from Western Texas(11-7, 3-2) capped by a free throw from Carara Samuel that notched the game at 49 apiece with 1:53 left, South Plains answered with a 4-0 run knotted by a pair of free throws from freshman La'Praisjah Johnson that sealed the Lady Westerner's fate as the Lady Texans improved to 14-7 on the year.
"I have to give credit to my team because I didn't play very well and I wanted to make both free throws to make sure we won this game," Johnson said. "We've been working extremely hard these past couple of weeks, and to get a win like this is very refreshing. We had to stay consistent and focus on the next possession, and we have a lot we can work on and need to bring the same energy the rest of the year."
Johnson finished with 14 points and 11 boards, sinking 4 of 7 shots from the floor and was 4-for-4 from the charity stripe. Freshman Chantel Govan netted 14 points to go along with six rebounds and two steals. Christina Baker tallied 10 points of 5 of 7 shooting from the floor and Gabbie Green chipped in six points and grabbed four boards.
"Knowing how hard we've worked and what we've been through this season, this win feels great," Govan said. "We played extremely hard and deserved to win this one. We knew we had to come out with a lot of momentum in the fourth quarter and it paid off and we were able to pull it out. We have to keep pushing in practice and focus on getting out to a clean start early in the game to put our team in position late in the fourth quarter like we did tonight."
South Plains shot 45 percent from the floor and 41 percent from 3 while forcing Western Texas to shoot just 34 percent from the field and 28 percent from the perimeter. The Lady Texans controlled the glass, outrebounding their counterpart 40-25 including 31 boards on the defensive end.
Samuel led Western Texas with a team-high 12 points over 27 minutes. Kyra Lewis netted 11 points and grabbed four rebounds while Allison Valdez chipped in six and Avery Gregory tallied five.
"We made a lot of simple freshman mistakes, but the great thing about them was they had next possession mentality," Petree said. "We pride ourselves on getting runs offensively and kills defensively, and we made a conscious effort not just to exchange buckets with them, but get the lead and try and get a stop. We did a great job of locking in defensively and guarding and not giving up second chances tonight."