HOUSTON — Somewhere on the bottom of the pile at Delmar Fieldhouse was Shakyla Hill.
For 40 minutes, Southern struggled to chase down Grambling’s star guard, but once the clock hit zero, the Tigers found her quick and piled on at center court.
Hill had a game-high 27 points and 10 rebounds to power No. 3 seed Grambling to a 72-68 upset over No. 1 Southern in the Southwestern Athletic Conference championship game Saturday afternoon.
With the win, Grambling won its first SWAC tournament since 1999 and will be heading to the NCAA tournament later this month.
Southern, which has prided itself on its "40 Minutes of Mayhem" defense this season, instead saw "40 minutes of Shakyla," who played every minute of the championship.
“When you come to the championship game to play, you have to show up, and more importantly step up, and we didn’t do that today,” SU coach Sandy Pugh said.
“I don’t know if it was the moment that had us frozen in time, but we were just really discombobulated.
“I think we just stood there and watched Shakyla Hill play basketball today, and you are not going to win a championship by standing around watching someone else shoot the basketball.”
The game was tied entering the fourth quarter, and both teams swapped leads down the stretch.
Hill hit a clutch 3-pointer with 3:32 left to give Grambling a 64-60 lead that highlighted a 9-0 run. Hill constantly countered Southern baskets throughout the game with fast-break layups, making 11 of 18 shots from the field.
“It’s an accomplishment to get to the championship game, but it is even bigger accomplishment to win it,” said Hill, who was named the tournament MVP. “It feels great to be up here.”
Monisha Neal and Jazmin Boyd each added 11 points for the Tigers, while former Scotlandville star Justice Coleman sealed the victory with a steal and layup with 27 seconds remaining to put the Tigers up by five.
With the championship on the line, Grambling coach Freddie Murray wasn’t about to take Hill out of the game.
“We just couldn’t take her off the court because she means so much on both the offensive and defensive end,” Murray said. “Today was a one-game season, and it was all or nothing. I put all my chips on the table and went with her.”
Southern (17-13) was led by senior forward Briana Green’s 22 points, while fellow senior Samantha Duncan added 12 points and nine rebounds.
Duncan also hit a half-court buzzer-beater to give the Jaguars a 39-37 lead at halftime.
Green and Duncan joined Grambling's Hill and Monisha Neal on the all-tournament team.
The Jaguars committed 18 turnovers, which hurt them down the stretch.
“We had a major meltdown today,” Pugh said. “We had uncharacteristic turnovers in key moments. I told the kids if you play in a championship game, you have to literally play outside yourself because everyone wants to go to the NCAA.”
The Jaguars season will continue in the WNIT because of their regular-season conference championship.
“We will have to see how we are going to play and get ready for it,” Pugh said.