MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The Southern women’s basketball team seemed to be rolling toward its fifth consecutive Southwestern Athletic Conference victory.
The Jaguars led Alabama State by double figures for nearly all of the first 34 minutes, but then everything changed. They started missing shots and turning the ball over, and they watched their lead shrink to a point.
But two free throws by Britney Washington and two big defensive plays by Jasmine Jefferson saved the day in the final minute as Southern beat the Lady Hornets 53-49 on Monday night in the Dunn-Oliver Acadome.
The Jaguars, 8-10 and 6-2 in the SWAC, visit Alcorn State on Saturday. ASU fell to 8-9 and 4-3.
“I thought we played solid basketball for about 28 minutes, then we just lost focus,” Southern coach Sandy Pugh said. “We made a lot of mental mistakes, especially on defense. It was a lot of little things.”
Kendra Coleman led the Jaguars with 14 points, though she made just 5-of-16 shots, including 1-of-7 3-pointers. Jefferson had 12 points, Briana Green added 10 and Bonnie Scott had seven points, a game-high nine rebounds, two assists and two steals to help offset five turnovers.
“Coach talked before the game about everybody playing with more intensity,” said Scott, who at 5-foot-5 is tied for shortest player on the team. “She wanted us to be more intense on the offensive boards and on offense overall.”
The Jaguars led by 12 after a first half in which ASU made just 8 of 30 shots and the Jaguars held a 27-19 edge in rebounding.
The lead remained in double digits for more than 12 minutes into the second half. Finally, consecutive baskets by Daniele Ewert and Kayla Stephens got the Lady Hornets within 48-40 with seven minutes remaining.
Coleman missed a layup, but Green saved the ball from going out of bounds and got it to Coleman, who made a short jumper.
That would be Southern’s last field goal.
ASU took advantage of the drought to chip away. Ewert’s jumper cut the lead to 50-47 with 1:54 left.
After a Jaguars turnover, Britney Wright missed a 3-pointer that would have tied it, and Jefferson rebounded.
Coleman turned the ball over, but Kayla Tucker missed a 3-pointer. Brittney Smith grabbed the offensive rebound and was fouled but missed both free throws with 1:04 left.
Washington’s shot in the lane was blocked as the shot clock was running out, triggering a fast break that ended with a layup by Smith that made it a one-point game with 29 seconds left.
With the shot clock off, the Lady Hornets fouled Washington, and she made both free throws with 25 seconds left.
“We knew, if they didn’t get the steal, they had to foul,” Pugh said. “So we let Britney take it out, so we could get it right back to her.”
Jefferson drew a charge from Smith and, after Shaquandria Litmon made one of two free throws, Ewert missed a shot that was hotly contested by Jefferson.
“I do my best to try and help my team, especially in the clutch,” Jefferson said. “I don’t care if it’s offense or defense.”
Wright was the only ASU player to score in double figures, finishing with 17 points. She had just two in the final 14 minutes.