LUBBOCK — The fifth-ranked South Plains College women's basketball team punched their ticket to the Region V title game Wednesday, defeating No. 17 Midland College 68-59 in the Western Junior College Athletic Conference Tournament championship at the Rip Griffin Center.
The Lady Texans will square off with Weatherford College at 1 p.m. on Saturday at the Coliseum on the campus of Western Texas College in Snyder, with the winner receiving an automatic bid to the NJCAA Women's Basketball National Tournament.
"I'm really proud of this group," South Plains head coach Ara Baten said. "I'm proud of the players who were at South Plains last year, and I'm really proud of the players we brought with us from Odessa. We have some great freshmen with some great attitudes, but all of our kids who come from different places have really come together and I think we're playing our best right now."
Midland jumped out to a 10-3 lead to begin the contest, controlling the opening minutes as Nya Lok sank a 3 from the right wing with 6:03 to play in the first quarter. South Plains answered back with a 10-2 run, taking a 13-12 lead with under just over three minutes to play in the first on a free throw from sophomore Jordan Brown.
The Lady Texans would push their lead to 25-21 early in the second quarter as Brown banked a jumper off the glass. Leading 31-29 following a free throw from Midland's Bella Green with 2:58 to go before the break, South Plains would go on an 8-2 run to close out the first 20 minutes, taking a 39-31 advantage into the locker room.
"I thought we had some kids come in the game for us and hit a couple of 3s, and it felt like it took some of the pressure of the game off of us," Baten said. "And that's the fun thing about our team – it can be just about anybody who gives us a lift, and it was great for our team. When you come to a place like South Plains, you want to win conference championships, you want to win region championships, and you want to win national championships. Right now, we're still in that mode and after that goal."
South Plains would come out of the break and open its lead to 14, 47-33 on a 3 from sophomore Dyana Offutt, part of an 8-2 to begin the second half. Midland would finally get back within 10, 51-41 with 1:22 left in the third following a free throw from Lok. Ewa Kielar extended South Plains' lead back to 14, 55-41 with a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 9:41 to play.
Midland responded with a 10-4 run to trim the deficit to nine, 59-51 on a triple from Brooke Galvin with 4:26 to go. South Plains never flinched, pushing their lead back to double dights, 62-51 thanks to a 3-ball from sophomore Shayla Moseberry with 3:40 remaining as the Lady Texans secured their third win against the Lady Chaparrals this season.
"South Plains is an amazing place to be with great people, so I'm glad we could have some success this year as almost an appreciation for how well we have been treated," Baten said. "All year, defense has been what's kept us in games, and we did not start the game well defensively. I thought we settled down and started defending better from the second quarter on, and that's what we feed off of. For us, defense is where it starts."
Reis finished with 11 points and 16 rebounds for SPC, her 16th double-double this season. Grace Hunter dropped in 13 points and dished out four assists over 34 minutes, while Brown netted nine points and six boards. Moseberry chipped in nine points off the bench, while Serena Waters, Martyna Czescik, and Offutt each finished with six points.
South Plains scored 24 points inside the paint, holding a narrow 40-38 rebounding advantage on the glass. The Lady Texans received 26 points from their bench, shooting 40.3 percent from the field, and knocked down nine 3s in the contest.