Guards Jesse Ward and Houston Chatman, unsung players on Dillard’s roster, made big plays in overtime, and the Bleu Devils topped rival Xavier 67-63 in the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference season finale Saturday at Dillard’s A.W. Dent Hall.
The victory, Dillard’s first against Xavier (19-11, 6-6) since 2013, gave it a split of the season series and clinched second place in the conference. Dillard will play seventh-seed SUNO in Friday’s GCAC Tournament opener at Dillard. Xavier, the fourth seed, will open against fifth-seeded Tougaloo.
“Jesse and Houston both made big plays in overtime, but I thought our defense from the 12 minute mark of the second half was big for us,” said Bleu Devils first-year coach Mike Newell. “We switched to more of a match-up zone defense, and it was effective for us.”
With Dillard (18-10, 8-4) leading 65-63, Ward intercepted a pass by Xavier point guard Mo Wright with eight seconds left in the overtime, leading to two game-sealing free throws by point guard Dennis Hightower with 2.4 seconds left.
Ward made the first shot of overtime, giving Dillard (18-10, 8-4) a 56-54 lead. Chatman had a steal and layup at 3:30 that gave pushed the Devils’ lead to 61-56, then Ward sank a 3-pointer, making it 65-60.
Demetic Austin had game highs of 24 points and 14 rebounds, including eight of Dillard’s 23 offensive rebounds.
“That’s the game right there,” Xavier coach Dannton Jackson said. “That and free throws.”
Dillard was 21-of-30 on free throws, and Xavier was 10-of-17.
In the women’s game, Xavier outscored Dillard 11-3 in the final 2:54 to take a 63-57 victory, preventing the Bleu Devils from gaining a season’s series sweep for the first time since the 1984-85 season.
“I thought our man-to-man defense down the stretch was excellent,” Xavier coach Bo Browder said. “And, we made some big
plays near the end of the game.”
The Gold Nuggets (19-11, 7-5) dominated Dillard (9-15, 4-7) on the boards, 58-28, grabbing 26 offensive rebounds. Point guard Whitney Gathright had game highs of 17 points and 11 rebounds, including four offensive rebounds.
Third-seeded Xavier and sixth-seeded Dillard meet again on Friday in the first round of the GCAC Tournament at Southern-New Orleans. With Edward Waters (20-8, 7-5) beating first-place Talladega in overtime on Saturday, it gets second place due to better overall record.
The loss was Dillard’s fifth in a row.
The defense of Gathright and Alesha Smith were key down the stretch, taking the ball out of the hands of Dillard guards Shantrell Lumar and Shaelynn Moore. That played a part in a turnover by Bleu Devils post player Keona Favis with 1:22 remaining and Xavier leading 55-54.
The Nuggets followed with the biggest play of the game. With three seconds on the shot clock, and Xavier taking the ball out under its basket, forward Jasmine Bush caught a pass and was fouled by Favis behind the 3-point line with 53.9 seconds left. Bush made all three free throws, extending the lead to four.
The Nuggets sealed the win with free throws by Gathright and Trana Hopkins in the final 21 seconds.