Cajuns capture WBI championship _lowres

Photo by Brad Kemp/ UL-Lafayette guard Keke Veal draws a foul on Siena forward Margot Hetzke as she goes up for a layup Sunday in the championship game of the Women's Basketball Invitational at Earl K. Long Gym. Veal scored 20 points and had six rebounds in the Cajuns' 52-50 win. She was named tournament MVP.

LAFAYETTE — Before Robbie Brown joined the University of Louisiana at Lafayette women’s basketball fan club, she had one last shot and a steal left in the tank that helped make the Cajuns champions.

Brown’s 3-pointer with 1:16 left and her steal in the closing seconds ensured the first women’s basketball postseason tournament championship in school history, as the Cajuns closed out a 52-50 win over Siena on Sunday in the Women’s Basketball Invitational championship game at Earl K. Long Gym.

“I was a No. 1 teammate, and now I will be a No. 1 fan,” Brown said. “I wouldn’t want my senior year to end any other kind of way.”

The Saints held a 48-47 advantage in the final two minutes as the shot clock was winding down on the Cajuns. Brown rose up on the wing and hit her only 3-point attempt of the game to give the Cajuns a 50-48 lead. Junior guard Keke Veal, who poured in a game-high 20 points, pushed the lead to three points with a free throw before Ida Krogh made a layup with 13 seconds left to cut UL-Lafayette’s lead to 51-50.

The Saints had an opportunity for a final possession after a missed front end of a 1-and-1 free-throw sequence. But Brown stole the ball from Krogh with two seconds left. A Brown free throw accounted for the final margin. The Saints were unable to get a potential game-winning shot up before the buzzer.

“We just found a way to win,” Cajuns coach Garry Brodhead said. “The players made the plays when we needed to. Robbie was here when (the coaching staff) got here. I told her after the game, ‘This crazy old man was tough on you.’”

Siena almost had a different ending in store for the Cajuns, as the Saints from Loudonville, New York, wiped out a 10-point UL-Lafayette halftime lead by limiting the Cajuns to 18 points in the second half. UL-Lafayette led 44-30 with 12:15 remaining in the game when Krogh made a 3-pointer to get the Saints going. Before the Cajuns were able to score again, the Saints had turned the contest into a one-possession game at 44-41.

“In the first half, we were able to shut her (Krogh) down and contain her,” Brodhead said. “In the second half, we let her and everybody get to the middle.”

One of the Saints’ other seniors, Tehresa Coles, converted a 3-point play with three minutes left to pull the Saints to within 47-46. Coles, who scored 13 points, made two more free throws to set the stage for Brown.

“(Coles) has been tremendous to coach for three years,” Siena coach Ali Jaques said. “I have a feeling she will continue to be in my life (as a friend).”

Megan Donohue had 13 points for the Saints, who were also seeking their first postseason tournament championship. They had nine wins last season and finished this one at 22-13.

Veal also had six rebounds to go with her 20 points. She received the WBI Most Valuable Player Award for averaging 20.8 points and 5.8 rebounds. Gabby Alexander scored eight points, and Jaylyn Gordon had seven for the Cajuns, who finished at 23-12 for the second-most wins in school history. The 2006-07 squad went 25-9.

“Nothing will be easy for us (in the offseason),” Veal said. “We have to work. This is a big step in the program for the incoming freshmen and the players who will still be here.”