Union University’s women’s basketball team is in the Gulf South Conference semifinals for the eighth time in nine years of their existence in the league.
But punching their ticket to the conference’s final four didn’t come without some adversity on Tuesday night in the quarterfinals.
The Lady Bulldogs won, 67-66, over Delta State to improve their record to 24-3.
But Delta State, whom Union had defeated by 37 points in January, was hitting its shots and actually led Union for most of the game and had the Lady Bulldogs down by 10 early in the fourth quarter.
“Our shooting has been down the last two or three games, so that didn’t help us at all,” said Union coach Mark Campbell. “Going 5-for-25 from the 3-point line is way below our average, so we had to find another way to win.”
The other way to win was by depending on their leading scorer, Shanique Lucas, who scored 33 points in a little less than 32 minutes.
“She played more minutes than I really wanted her to, but she wasn’t getting any help in scoring,” Campbell said. “It was just one of those nights where we had one player who was consistently hitting her shots.
“And when one player is hitting her shots, then you need her out there shooting.”
When the Lady Bulldogs were down by 10 with just under eight minutes remaining in the game, Lucas took over and helped lead Union on a 20-4 run to take a six-point lead with less than three minutes to play.
It was a 3-pointer by Leah Church with 3:47 to go that gave Union its first lead since early in the second quarter.
“This was also a night when there weren’t any lineups that really felt right,” Campbell said. “You work players into the game and try to get the right combinations of players in there working together, and we just had a hard time finding the right combo.
“Fortunately, Shanique was able to lead us well in scoring and everybody got back on defense and did a good job of holding them back from scoring late.”
The defensive pressure from both teams was evident throughout the game.
Delta State stayed primarily in a zone defense, forcing Union to take 3-pointers that weren’t typically good looks, which caused them to miss more than usual.
The shots they did take were also as time was winding down on the shot clock each possession as Delta State forced them to look a few extra seconds for a good look at the basket and even got a couple of turnovers from shot clock violations.
Union’s full-court press and half-court trap caused Delta State to turn it over three times because they couldn’t get the ball across half court within 10 seconds.
Union moves on to the semifinals, which will be played in Birmingham, Ala., on Saturday. Union – who is the No. 2 seed in the conference – will take on No. 3 West Florida at 2:15 p.m.
Brandon Shields, email@example.com