KATY, Texas (KTRE) - The SFA Ladyjacks exorcised their demons of the past 15 years and clinched their first Southland Conference Tournament Championship on Sunday in Katy with a 56-45 win over Sam Houston State University. The win clinched their 16th and last SLC title before heading to the Western Athletic Conference next year and earned them a berth in the National Tournament starting next week in San Antonio.
The women came out strong with junior forward Aiyana Johnson scoring 10 points in the first half. The SFA defense held the Bearkats in check with Southland Player of the year Amber Leggett just scoring 6 points. SFA pulled out to a 17-13 lead after the first quarter 17-13. The teams slowed it down in the second quarter with each team just dropping in 9 points, bringing the halftime score to 26-22. The Bearkats came out of the break and two big shots by Faith Cook gave Sam Houston a short 30-28 lead but Johnson quickly tied it back up. Zya Nugent would hit a big three out of the third quarter media timeout to give the team a small 33-30. The rivals entered the fourth quarter with SFA up 37-32.
“We had couple of possessions get away from us,” said Sam Houston coach Ravon Justice. “We didn’t execute like we usually do, but at the end the of the day, I thought the kids fought hard.”
The Ladyjacks finally got some separation with about 6 minutes to go in the game when Aliyah Johnson hit a jumper and it was followed up by an Avery Brittingham steal and layup. Sam would pull within four one more time but a late three for the second straight day by Nugent put the game away.
“It’s a great feeling,” said SFA coach Mark Kellogg. “It’s been a while for SFA, but it’s a tradition-rich program. There have been some great coaches and players through this program, so we’re just happy to represent.”
Aiyana Johnson earned the tournament MVP award. Nugent joined Johnson on the all-tournament team.
“I’m glad that we got there,” said Nugent, who finished with 13 points, six rebounds and two assists. “I felt like everybody counted us out, so now this is our time to shine.”
The Ladyjacks will learn on Monday night who they will play in the NCAA Women’s National Tournament. The entire tournament will happen in San Antonio.