COMMERCE – Rashida Wilson hit a pair of free throws with 8.1 seconds left and Texas A&M University-Commerce survived two potential game-winners in the final seconds to topple Tarleton State 60-59 in the first round of the Lone Star Conference Tournament Tuesday night at the A&M-Commerce Field House.
Wilson, who missed all six of her field goal attempts in the game, buried four free throws in the closing minute as A&M-Commerce (16-12) scored the final six points of the game and erased a five-point deficit.
Down 59-54 with just over a minute to play, she hit a pair of foul shots to make it 59-56. Tarleton State’s Isha Brown then missed the front end of a one-and-one which was followed by Althea Byfield’s putback of a Kanani Marshal 3-point attempt.
Another Tarleton (19-9) missed free throw, this time from Iveta Griffin, set up Wilson’s heroics. She got to the center of the lane and dished to Portia Mitchell who missed a layup. Wilson got the rebound and put up two missed layups of her own before being fouled on the third attempt. Both of her free throws, split up by a Tarleton State timeout, touched nothing but net.
“She wants the ball in her hands,” said A&M Commerce head coach Denny Downing “(Rashida) does so many things for us.”
One thing Wilson has done for the Lady Lions all season has been distributing the basketball. She had eight assists against Tarleton State, enough to pass Cherie Washington as the school’s single-season record holder. Washington had 149 assists during the 1992-93 season while Wilson has 156 this year.
Tuesday night marked just the second time in the 23-year history of the Lone Star Conference tournament that A&M-Commerce played host to a tournament game. It was also 23 years to the day since the Lady Lions’ first tournament appearance, an 87-78 loss to Southwestern Oklahoma State in Feb. 28, 1983.
Downing made it a point to tell his squad that tournament games were different than any others they had experienced this year.
“What I told them was that the first games of the tournament were always the toughest. Someone always gets upset and it’s not going to be us,” he said.
Tuesday night’s game was certainly tougher than the previous meeting between the two, an 83-64 A&M-Commerce win on January 5. Downing said the difference tonight was the TexAnns’ shooting touch, particularly guard Katie Crawford, who hit six 3-pointers on her way to a game-high 26 points.
“They just shot it really well tonight,” he said “Crawford was lights out. What a tremendous player.”
Crawford, who stands just 5-5, also had a game-high 10 rebounds and Griffin chipped in 14 points but no other TexAnns player had more than six points. In contrast the Lady Lions got at least three points from everyone on the roster and were led by Marshal’s 17 points, Katedria Mosley’s 14 and Byfield’s nine. Marshal hit five 3-pointers, upping her single-season record total to 92 and both teams combined to hoist 43 three-point attempts. A&M-Commerce hit on 7 of its 19 attempts while Tarleton State made just nine of 24 attempts.
Dawn Montgomery had seven rebounds to lead the Lady Lions while Mosley had six.
A&M-Commerce’s largest lead came with 12:39 to go when Montgomery’s 15-footer gave the Lady Lions a 50-43 lead. But Tarleton State came back with a 16-4 run to take a 59-54 lead with just over a minute to go.
“We’ve been there before,” Downey said of his team’s late deficit. “We know what we’re going to do in that situation. We did it and got a win.”
A&M Commerce, the No. 3 seed in the LSC South, moves on to the tournament semifinals in Canyon where they will take on West Texas A&M, the South’s No. 1 seed and a 91-63 winner over Cameron on Tuesday night. Game time is yet to be determined.