PINEVILLE, La. – The Louisiana College women’s basketball team struggled through a terribly cold start, falling behind Ozarks (Ark.) by 16 points in the first quarter, but behind Alex Harrison’s first career 20 point/20 rebound game, the Lady ‘Cats stormed back to force overtime and took down the Eagles in the extra stanza 84-75 Saturday afternoon at H.O. West Fieldhouse.
Returning to the court for the first time in more than a month showed in the early minutes for the Lady ‘Cats as Ozarks steadily built up the lead while the ten LC players dressed out for the contest worked to get back in the rhythm they had prior to the extended break. The big push by the Eagles came midway through the first quarter as a 12-0 Ozarks run bumped the LC deficit from 9-5 to 21-5, giving Ozarks its biggest lead of the game. That run was ended by an Alex Harrison three-pointer. An old-fashioned three-point play by Alexis Lege capped the quarter on a good note for the Lady ‘Cats to cut the deficit to 23-11 at the end of the first.
But digging themselves out of the early hole proved to be a long and tedious affair for the Lady ‘Cats. LC cut the deficit under ten points for the first time since the big run with 5:15 remaining before halftime as Olivia Scott got to the cup and scored to cut it to a 27-29 Eagle lead. LC would get it all the way down to just five points with less than 2:30 remaining before the break as Scott got out in transition after a block on the defensive end and scored a fastbreak lay-in to make it 30-25 Ozarks. However, it was the Eagles who got the final four points of the half to make the score 34-25 Ozarks as the two teams ran off to the halftime locker room.
Ozarks came out in the third quarter and got the lead back into double figures at 11 points and hit that mark twice more during the period in an attempt to keep the Lady ‘Cats at bay. But the final few minutes of the third proved significant as LC’s offense roared to life and the comeback was fully on. Trailing 43-32, Kristen Breaux got into the paint and scored to cut the deficit under double digits, where it would never get to again. That bucket also kicked off an 8-0 run by the Lady ‘Cats capped by an Olivia Scott basket and one to make the score 43-40 Eagles with just less than two minutes left. Both teams would answer each other’s scores down the stretch, and it was a three-point game, 48-45, heading into the final stanza of regulation.
Alexis Lege opened the scoring in the fourth with a pair of free throws and followed that with a steal and put back a missed shot to give the Lady ‘Cats their first lead of the contest at 49-48 less than a minute into the final quarter. But perhaps the biggest challenge to LC’s comeback attempt happened with 5:30 left in the game. With LC now trailing by a point, the Eagles got a pair of three-pointers in back-to-back possessions to push the Ozarks lead up to seven in quick order at 60-53 with less than five minutes left. But the Lady ‘Cats would not be deterred as good free throw shooting down the stretch helped LC close the gap with the clock stopped, and then a key three-pointer by Harrison with 1:15 left got the Lady Cats back within striking distance. With the Wildcats trailing by two points with nine seconds left, Harrison drove past a defender into the paint and floated a shot in to tie the score with just over a second left to force overtime at 68-68.
Having fought back from down 16, the Lady ‘Cats would not allow this game to get away from them in overtime. Harrison hit a three to open the scoring in the extra five minutes. Ozarks would tie it back up at 71-71 thanks to a three-point play, but a Tremeeka Spikes basket two possessions later gave LC the lead for good. Several key shots by Kristen Breaux really helped LC start to get a bit of distance on the Eagles, and free throws down the stretch by Christina Canale and Harrison put the game out of reach.
“What an incredible day it was for our girls today,” said Louisiana College head women’s basketball coach Matt LeBato. “Not only did we finally get to compete, but to pull off a win in that fashion, being able to fight back after a slow start and win in overtime shows a lot of character in these young ladies. We never put our heads down, we just knew we had to execute better and there was plenty of time left. I thought we executed very well down the stretch, especially while out of timeouts, and then our defense carried us in overtime. We look forward to getting back to full strength next week, but today was an absolutely great day to be a Wildcat and all the glory goes to God.”
Harrison did the vast majority of her damage in the clutch, scoring 14 of her 21 points between the fourth quarter and overtime, but did most of her work on the boards where she was credited with 20 boards, 17 on the defensive end. She was also credited with four steals and a blocked shot in the win.
Olivia Scott hit six shots, including a pair of threes, to finish with 17 points as well as five rebounds. Alexis Lege was also big on the inside, going six of eight from the field and finished with 16 points, eight rebounds, two blocks, and two steals. Tremeeka Spikes hit five shots on her way to 13 points. Kristen Breaux rounded out the leading scorers for the Lady ‘Cats with ten points and five rebounds.
On a day where neither team shot great, with Ozarks (0-6, 0-6 ASC) hitting 38.5% overall while LC hit 36.3% from the field, it was the free throw line that proved to be the difference as the Lady ‘Cats converted 20 points from the charity stripe while the Eagles got only eight points with the clock halted.
The Lady ‘Cats (2-0, 1-0 ASC) head on the road for the first time this season on Thursday night against East Texas Baptist. Tip off against the Tigers (14-0, 6-0 ASC) is set for 5:30 P.M. at Ornelas Gymnasium.