March Madness. A phrase used by college basketball fans and teams alike to describe the month of tournaments to determine the best of the best. There is normally at least one team who puts together a Cinderella run. The team barely qualifies for the tournament but manages to make a run.
The Sam Houston State University Women’s Basketball team made that Cinderella run at the Southland Conference tournament.
Unfortunately the clock struck midnight just before Sam found out the princess name and the Bearkats fell in the tournament finals to the number one seed University of Central Arkansas Sugar Bears 69-62.
The Bearkats were in their fourth game in as many days on Sunday when they faced the Sugar Bears who were only in their second game of the tournament.
UCA’s fresh legs showed down the stretch as they outrebounded the Bearkats by 19, 46-27. Their bench also scored 21 to the four of Sam’s.
“I think the biggest thing that hurt us was rebounds,” SHSU Head Coach Brenda Welch-Nichols said. “I think our defense stuck hard at it but I think our rebounds hurt us. We’re going out and playing hard, we just didn’t get the ball to bounce our way.”
The Bearkat team came into the day averaging 18 threes a game but in the tournament only shot nine.
“I think us being fatigued hurt us with the three ball,” Welch-Nichols said. “Our legs were tired, and our shooters didn’t feel the three ball. I’m just glad they didn’t try to shoot them anyways.”
The Bearkats were led in the finals by senior center Angela Beadle who had 25 points and 12 rebounds in the losing effort.
The first game of the run, however; started in a clash against the six seed Nicholls University Colonels.
The game was tied for only 29 seconds, with the Bearkats leading the rest of the way in a wire to wire nine point victory 73-64.
The largest lead on the afternoon for the Bearkats was 19 with 38 seconds left in the firstt half after a layup by surprise tournament standout junior center Jasmine McCants.
The Bearkats held a lead the rest of the way, with five points being the closest Nicholls could close the gap.
Senior guard Shernise Roberson led the way for the Bearkats with 20 points but McCants and Beadle both had double doubles with 11 rebounds, 13 and 14 points respectively.
“This team came together at the end of conference and that’s because our two senior leaders, Shernise Robertson and Angela Beadle, took this team on their back to and got them going,” Welch-Nichols said. “These two are difference makers. They showed that today.”
The quarterfinal game pitted the Bearkats against their rival, the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks.
SFA jumped out to an early five point lead three minutes into the first quarter but the Bearkats clawed their way back and headed to the second up four.
The Bearkats exploded in the second quarter to spring out to a 15 point lead with three minutes left in the half and went to the locker room up 14.
SFA came out of the locker room hot and even took the lead at one point in the third but the Kats surged back at the end to be up six with 10 minutes left in regulation time.
The lumberjacks were never able to recover after their lead was taken and trailed the whole fourth and lost by eight, 78-70.
Robertson and Beadle once again led the way for the Bearkats with Robertson’s 19 points and Beadle grabbing 13 rebounds with 15 points of her own.
There are a lot of great things that this game means to us,” Welch-Nichols said. “First of all, it’s a big rivalry, and second of all, we were able to advance to the next round. These ladies work hard and I am ecstatic.”
The semifinal set the Bearkats against the second seeded Northwestern State Demons.
Both teams came out of the gate off from the floor and combined 8-27 from the field in the first quarter but NSU got out to a 12-10 lead.
The Bearkats bounced back and outscored Nicholls by four to take a 32-30 lead into the locker room.
SHSU carried their momentum out of the locker room and were up 11 at one point but went to the fourth up by nine, 59-45.
NSU got the lead down from 14 at its highest to five at one point but the Bearkats slammed the door with two minutes left and won the game 78-71.
Beadle led the way for the Bearkats with 26 points and 10 rebounds as well as a clutch block to stop the NSU run in the fourth.