S.F. Austin 90, Northwestern St. 70
SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) _ Stephanie Whitmore scored 23 points, and Shawnta Johnson had 22 points and 13 rebounds as Stephen F. Austin held off Northwestern State 90-77 Saturday in the Southland Conference tournament final.
Stephen F. Austin (17-11), the No. 2 seed, gets an automatic NCAA tournament berth with the victory and goes to the tournament for the 14th time, including 11th straight.
Northwestern State (22-6), the tournament’s top seed, has never beaten Stephen F. Austin in tournament play, going 0-6 against the LadyJacks in the Southland _ and every loss has been in the final.
Northwestern trailed from the opening basket, but cut the margin to three points late before Stephen F. Austin reasserted its dominance.
Anitra Davis scored 17 points for the Ladyjacks, who shot 51 percent from the field and made 19 of 24 free throws.
The Demons opened the second half with a 7-4 run, closing to 51-46 three minutes in. Louise Chase was the only scorer for Northwestern State through the first 6:45 of the second half _ scoring 11 points before Sonya Bearden made one of two free throws with 12:15 left to cut Stephen F. Austin’s lead to 59-53.
Chase, who finished with 28 points, scored every second-half field goal for Northwestern until the final two minutes.
Judy Clark was fouled after stealing the ball and driving to the basket, and made a pair of free throws as the Ladyjacks closed to 62-58 with 7:12 left. But after Nikki Vernon made one of two free throws, Stephen F. Austin scored eight unanswered points for a 70-59 lead with 5:05 left.
Clark had 21 points for Northwestern, 11 of them in the final two minutese. Bearden added 12 points for the Demons.
The Ladyjacks ran off a 16-3 lead to open the game. The Demons made only one basket in the first 4:17, a 3-pointer by Bearden.
Northwestern shot 41 percent in the first half, but was ineffective defensively, allowing Stephen F. Austin to shoot 56 percent and have a 22-13 advantage on the boards.
The Ladyjacks did not make a field goal in the final 4:45 of the half, but led 47-39 at the break.