Six seniors will play their last home game when the Southern women’s basketball team faces Alcorn State at 3 p.m. Saturday in the F.G. Clark Activity Center.
It will be an emotional time for the players, coaches and fans in attendance. But for the Lady Braves and the rest of the Southwestern Athletic Conference, the reaction will be more along the lines of, “good riddance.”
The Jaguars record in the SWAC since guard Kendra Coleman and forward Jasmine Jefferson joined the program four years ago is 53-16.
“They’re the foundation of the program,” coach Sandy Pugh said.
That mark includes a 29-4 record since junior-college transfers Bunny Scott, Shaquandria Litmon, Keonia Parrish and Yasmine Nelson joined them two years ago.
Southern is 13-2 in the SWAC and 15-10 overall after winning its last 12 games. Alcorn is 8-7 and 9-15.
“This has been by far the best run we’ve had,” Coleman said.
The Jaguars trail first-place Texas Southern by one loss with three games to play. They know that wins in their final three games will guarantee them at least a share of a second consecutive SWAC regular-season title. They play at Prairie View and Texas Southern next week.
“I’m really pleased with the success we’ve had,” said Coleman, who came out of Donaldsonville High School as one of the most sought-after recruits that Pugh has landed in her 15 years as Jaguars coach.
“I came here with one thing on my mind and that was winning championships. When coach brought me in, she was like, ‘this is where you need to be to win championships.’ ”
Southern was picked to win the SWAC in the preseason but struggled to a 1-2 start after faltering in the second half against Texas Southern and coming up short in an uninspired effort at Grambling.
Pugh had a serious meeting with the team after that game and the win streak started 48 hours later with one of the most complete performances of the season at Jackson State.
“I made it very clear who we are and where want to be and sitting exactly where we want to be with three games left,” Pugh said.
“We’ve come a very long way,” Coleman said.
Scott called the seniors “the big sisters” on the team, which features key underclassmen in guards Britney Washington and Ashley Williams, forwards Briana Green and Cortnei Purnell and center Jadea Brundidge. Forward Kenidi Robinson was a starter but has missed the conference season after undergoing oral surgery.
“As a coach, it just makes your job so much easier when you tell the kids we’re going to practice at 2 o’clock, and when you walk out there at 1:45, they’ve already started stretching and they’ve already started doing the pre-practice drills that you’ve put in place,” Pugh said. “That’s a good feeling for a coach because that tells you that the kids are conscientious, and they’re listening and they understand what this thing is about.”
Coleman will make her 100th start on Saturday and Jefferson, who’s from Miami, her 93rd.
Scott, who’s from Denham Springs and played at Baton Rouge Community College, walked on as the third point guard last year and wound up starting 20 games. That earned her a scholarship, and she has started 22 games this season.
“She’s a huge reason Southern University has been in first place or battling for first place last two years,” Pugh said.
Litmon has backed up Scott the past two seasons, but much more effectively this season than last, when she played sparingly. Pugh was impressed by what Litmon’s high school coach in Miami told Jaguars assistant David Frank about a visit with Litmon last summer.
“The coach told him she said, ‘I didn’t deserve to play. I didn’t work,’ ” Pugh said. “This summer she really put the time in, and she’s made a world of difference for our season.”
Parrish, who’s from Winter Haven, Florida, is one of the fastest players on the team, and Pugh said she’s also one of the most selfless.
“She’s super fast,” Pugh said. “Sometimes she out-runs the ball. She’s very passionate about everything. She’s a very giving kid.”
Southern has played more pressure defense this season, something that has increased Parrish’s value but decreased that of Nelson, a 6-foot-3 native of Yazoo City, Mississippi, who’s playing on an injured knee. She was ineligible for several games early in the season.
“She hasn’t been able to play all the minutes she would have liked,” Pugh said, “but when we need her, she comes out to play.”
The Jaguars know their season will end in the SWAC tournament in two weeks, regardless of the outcome, because the program is banned from NCAA postseason play.
“I’ve spoken to everybody on the team and let them know that we have nothing to lose,” Jefferson said. “So let’s go all out, finish strong and give everyone something to remember us by.”
Follow Les East on Twitter @EastAdvocate