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Last-place Islanders pull off upset of Cowgirls

Last Modified: Saturday, February 09, 2013 5:23 PM

By Lee Goddard / Special to the American Press

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The inability to box out in crucial situations cost McNeese State again — this time against the last-place team in the Southland Conference.

The Cowgirls held a five-point lead with a minute remaining — and were up by three with 5seconds left — but allowed Texas A&M-Corpus Christi to get a rebound on an intentionally missed free throw, which led to a quick put-back and another foul.

Marquesha Anderson-Sparks knocked down the tie-breaking free throw with 2.3 seconds remaining as the Islanders won their first league game Saturday afternoon, a 60-59 upset of McNeese at the American Bank Center.

The Cowgirls (12-11, 7-5) dropped two in a row on the road, with Saturday’s defeat following a loss at Sam Houston State. McNeese coach Brooks Donald Williams pointed out that her team gave up key offensive rebounds in each contest.

The one Saturday led directly to a loss.

With A&M-Corpus Christi down 59-56, Islanders guard Taryn Gregory drove the lane and was fouled with 4.1 seconds left. She hit the first free throw, and coach Royce Chadwick instructed her to miss the second. The ball caromed to the right, and A&M-Corpus Christi’s Jessica Jammer slipped while pursuing it.

But Anderson-Sparks, who played only six minutes, was in there to crash the boards. The 5-foot-7 guard peeled off from the high block, grabbed the ball and banked in a shot while being fouled.

“My point of view was we didn’t box out,” Donald Williams said. “It happened at Sam on a key possession, and it’s happened throughout the year. We certainly haven’t learned how important our rebounding effort is, especially at such a big moment, and Corpus did a good job taking advantage of our deficiencies.”

Anderson-Sparks made her tie-breaking free throw, and Ashlyn Baggett’s desperation heave from halfcourt was off the mark, sending the Islanders (2-20, 1-10) into a rare celebration.

The Cowgirls held a 41-33 lead with 13:41 left in the game, but didn’t score for the next 7:59. During that span, they missed nine shots and had six turnovers, having difficulty breaking through the perimeter pressure.

“They played tremendous defensive pressure and made us uncomfortable,” Donald Williams said. “We didn’t attack it like we wanted to. We weren’t clicking on all cylinders. Hats off to them.”

The game was tied at 412, but McNeese rebuilt the lead to six. A&M-Corpus Christi, however, was able to stay within striking distance with post player Brandi Huff scoring all of her team-high 13 points during the final 10:34.

That kept it close and gave A&M-Corpus Christi revenge for a 29-point beating the Cowgirls handed the Islanders on Jan. 10.

“They enjoyed that victory,” Chadwick said. “We had it circled when they were coming back. Our players played with a lot of pride, and we had some former players talk to our team, and I think that made a difference.”

Baggett led McNeese with 19 points, with 15 coming in the first half. Her sister Caitlyn scored 12 of her 17 in the final half.

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