The University of South Alabama women's basketball team defeated the two seeded UT Arlington Lady Mavs, 57-50 in the semifinals of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament on Friday afternoon at the Lakefront Arena to advance to the program's first title game since 1989.
No. 7 South Alabama will meet the one seed Little Rock Trojans in the championship game of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament on Saturday, March 16. Tip-off is set for 11 a.m. at the Lakefront Arena in New Orleans, La.
"We've been talking about this since the beginning of the year, and to actually get there is a big deal. I'm just excited for them. UTA is a great basketball team, well-coached. I thought we came out and got some baskets early," said head coach Terry Fowler. "We had some confidence going. We knew they would fight, they would come back. They went to the 1-3-1 defense, and we struggled with that. (We) made a few adjustments and were able to make key plays when we needed to – total team effort. We lost Damaya Telemaque to an injury yesterday. Savannah Jones comes back today and hits big shot after big shot. It was just great, a total team effort."
South Alabama led for the majority of the ballgame but UTA held it close and tied it up with just over two minutes to play in the fourth quarter. Savannah Jones hit a three-pointer from the corner with 59 seconds left to play that put the Jaguars up by six and UTA was forced to begin fouling. Jones and Jayla Morrow combined to go 4-for-4 from the free-throw line down the stretch to seal the game for the Jags.
The Jaguars went on a 6-0 run in the third and Kennedi Centers hit a layup down low to stretch the Jaguars lead to nine heading into the fourth quarter. The Lady Mavs did not go away quietly and eventually evened things up at 46.
The Jaguars went on a four-minute long scoring drought that allowed UTA to climb back into the game, but Antoinette Lewis hit a bucket to give South the lead back at 48-46 and UTA was never able to take a lead.
Lewis finished with a game-high 22 points, six rebounds, and four blocks in the game. The sophomore forward/center, went 9-of-13 from the floor for the Jaguars. Jones finished with 14 points and went 4-for-5 from behind the arc to hit all but one of South Alabama's three-pointers on the afternoon.
The Jags improve to 24-9 on the season and have tied the program high for wins set previously by the 1983-84 and 1986-87 teams.