It was a little more than a week ago that the Southern women’s basketball team suddenly found itself on the verge of being eliminated from the Southwestern Athletic Conference race.
The Jaguars had just lost at Alcorn State and fallen two games behind first-place Texas Southern in the loss column. Southern had just two games left, and Texas Southern had three.
Coach Sandy Pugh decided not to dwell on the 85-74 loss to Alcorn.
“I never said a word about it once it was over,” Pugh said. “We didn’t play well, but ever since that game, we found another gear. The energy has been much better ever since.”
The Jaguars received a boost when Alabama State beat Texas Southern two days after the loss at Alcorn. Three days after ,that Southern beat Texas Southern and became part of a four-way tie atop the standings.
Then Saturday, Southern whipped Prairie View and claimed a share of the SWAC title, along with Texas Southern and Alabama State.
“After that loss, our captains pulled us together,” forward Briana Green said. “They told us we had to stay together, that we were still capable of winning a championship. We knew we had to keep fighting.”
Now the rejuvenated and second-seeded Jaguars (17-10, 14-4), have their sights set on another championship in the SWAC tournament, which begins Tuesday in the Toyota Center in Houston.
That quest will begin at noon Wednesday, likely against seventh-seeded Alcorn State (10-18, 8-10), which meets 10th-seeded Mississippi Valley State in a first-round game Tuesday. Valley (3-25) won just one conference game — its opener against Arkansas-Pine Bluff nine weeks ago — as it battled through injuries, defections and a coaching change.
Southern’s two victories against Valley came by scores of 99-36 and 78-26. Alcorn beat Valley 81-66 and 75-39.
The Jaguars loss to Alcorn is their only loss in their past eight games. Southern won the first meeting against Alcorn 66-57 on Jan. 30 in the F.G. Clark Activity Center.
The Lady Braves have won six of their past eight games, but split their past four.
The play of Alcorn’s Norianna Haynes, the leading scorer and second-leading rebounder in the SWAC, mirrored that of her team in both games against Southern. When the Jaguars won she had eight points on 3-of-18 shooting and nine rebounds. When the Lady Braves won Haynes had her league-leading 11th double-double, finishing with 32 points and 10 rebounds.
Follow Les East on Twitter, @EastAdvocate.