The Southern women’s basketball team headed to Texas in search of at least a share of a second consecutive Southwestern Athletic Conference regular-season championship.
If the Jaguars (16-10, 14-2 SWAC) win at Prairie View (10-6, 13-15) on Thursday night, they’ll have a chance to claim at least a share of the title when they visit Texas Southern in the regular-season finale Saturday. The first-place Lady Tigers are 15-1 and host Alcorn State on Thursday.
Southern has won 13 consecutive games but has been chasing Texas Southern for two months, ever since the Lady Tigers beat the Jaguars 62-48 in the F.G. Clark Activity Center.
Southern coach Sandy Pugh told her team a few days ago that its season has been like climbing Mount Everest.
“This has been a long and arduous journey for us,” Pugh said. “We’ve had a lot of bumps along the road. The preseason schedule was a humdinger. It was tough. It was physically and mentally demanding and draining.
“We had a lot of ups and down and here we sit in the position of being capable of winning the conference. We’ve talked about planting a flag or waving a flag. Which is it going to be? Come 6 p.m. Saturday, we want to be planting a flag. That’s what it’s all about.”
Southern needs two wins on this trip to match last season’s 16-2 conference record.
“The focus first off is to get the regular season,” forward Jasmine Jefferson said, “and then to win the SWAC tournament.”
These last two games will determine the seedings for the SWAC tournament, which begins Tuesday in Houston.
When the Jaguars and Prairie View met in the conference opener Jan. 3, Southern won 67-51 in the Clark Activity Center. But then came the loss to Texas Southern and another loss at Grambling on Jan. 10. Two nights after the loss at Grambling, the Jaguars began their win streak with a victory at Jackson State.
“Everybody knows their role,” guard Kendra Coleman said. “And everybody has slowly been putting the pieces together.”
The most recent victory was a 76-55 win against Alcorn State in the home finale Saturday. That continued a stretch of dominance in which the Jaguars’ have had an average margin of victory of 20 points during the win streak.
“We’ve still got a lot of things we’ve got to clean up if we think we’re going to go to Texas and get two,” Pugh said.
Southern has clinched no worse than the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament, and the Jaguars and the Lady Tigers will be on opposite sides of the bracket, regardless of what happens in the next three days.
Prairie View is coming off a 60-42 loss at Alabama State on Monday. Texas State won at Alabama A&M 83-46 on Monday.
“You’re talking about playing the other two of the top three teams in the conference,” Pugh said. “We’ve got to be clicking on all cylinders. We’ve got to have our A game rolling going into those two.”
Follow Les East on Twitter @EastAdvocate.