Brandy Broome has pushed the Southern University of New Orleans women’s basketball team to reach nearly every goal it has set since the beginning of the season.
But Broome needed her teammates to come through for the Lady Knights to reach their ultimate goal.
They did just that on Sunday as SUNO put Xavier of New Orleans away late to walk away with a 55-47 win in the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference tournament final, completing SUNO’s first year as regular season and tournament champions in school history.
With Sunday’s victory, SUNO automatically qualifies for a berth into the NAIA tournament, which begins March 18.
“This feels great, but I give all the credit to my players. They’ve been working their butts off since August,” SUNO coach Elston King said. “They started doubling Brandy in the second half, and she shared it with her teammates. They made their shots, and that’s what eventually put us over the top.”
Broome controlled the game throughout for the Lady Knights (22-4), finishing with game-highs in points (18), rebounds (13) and steals (nine), but she only needed to score five points in the second half as the rest of SUNO’s lineup helped carry her across the finish line.
Leading the way among the other Lady Knights were Ravin Martin and Marquetta Stokes, who finished with 12 and 10 points, respectively, after only combining for four points in the first half.
“We went into halftime, and I asked my teammates, ‘Do you want this to be your last game?’ ” Broome said. “I think we played great, and we played together in the second half. That’s what it takes to win championship. You can’t do it by yourself.”
SUNO slowly took the lead from the Gold Nuggets in the first few minutes of the second half, then grabbed the momentum with a 10-2 run that ended with a Stokes layup that gave the Lady Knights a 43-36 lead with 10:05 left in the game.
Xavier (18-15) clawed its way back into the game with a 6-0 run that cut their deficit to 43-42 with less than six minutes left, but SUNO clamped down on defense and held the Gold Nuggets to one field goal in the final 5:44 of the game to seal the victory.
“(Xavier) played really hard, really intense, and they weren’t giving up,” Broome said. “I think we wanted to win the game with our defense and we definitely did that down that last stretch of the game.”
Broome finished the first half with more field goals than the rest of the SUNO players combined (5-4), as the other Lady Knights shot a frigid 24 percent from the field.
The Gold Nuggets, while only managing to shoot 27 percent from the field themselves in the first half, took advantage of the Lady Knights’ struggles to score and closed the first half with an 8-4 run, which gave them a 25-22 lead.
“I may never have an opportunity to coach a player like her again,” King exclaimed about Broome. “She’s special. She’s probably the most talented young lady that I’ve ever coached.”
Trana Hopkins led the way for the Gold Nuggets with 16 points on 5-of-16 shooting from the field. Vinnie Briggs also had 10 points and seven rebounds.