McNeese women's basketball coach Brooks Donald Williams. (American Press Archives)
Last Modified: Friday, January 04, 2013 12:47 PM
NATCHITOCHES — McNeese State seniors Ashlyn and Caitlyn Baggett are the old guard when it comes to quality guard play in the Southland Conference.
Northwestern State freshman Janelle Perez is, well, the new guard. And she’s poised to give the Cowgirls nightmares for years to come.
The 5-foot-2 dynamo from El Paso, Texas, drilled a 3-pointer with 4.5 seconds to propel the Demons to a 64-62 stunner over the two-time defending Southland champions in the conference opener Thursday night.
Perez finished with 12 points and seven assists — one less assist than McNeese had as a team.
“She’s good,” said McNeese coach Brooks Donald Williams. “She reminds me of a young (former Lamar star) Jenna Plumley. They did a good job. Their kids played hard. They made big-time shots and they outplayed us.”
The Demons (5-6, 1-0 SLC) took possession after Caitlyn missed the front end of a 1-and-1 at the other end.
Ashlyn had a running shot for the tie at the buzzer, but it bounced out.
Northwestern State, which spent last season in the SLC cellar, came in on a five-game losing streak and had been blown out by Ole Miss and Houston, two teams McNeese has defeated. The Demons were also the worst 3-point shooting team in the league, with 24 shots made from behind the arc in 111 attempts.
That team was nowhere to be found Thursday night. The Demons finished 7 of 15 (46.7 percent) from 3-point range.
The Cowgirls looked like the squad with season-long struggles from downtown, hitting 2 of 13 3-point attempts.
As has been the case in six of its seven losses, McNeese (5-7, 0-1) led the game with 8 minutes remaining. Once again, the Cowgirls did not play well enough down the stretch to cash in. McNeese was outscored 16-8 in the final 7:28.
“We have to take a step back and realize we’re not the same team as last year,” Caitlyn said. “If we don’t play with the fire everyone else plays with, we’re not going to win games. We’re not playing solid, we’re not playing as a team. We’re having mental lapses.”
Neither Baggett twin finished in double figures, each scoring nine points. It was the first time in their careers that the twins were held to single digits in the same game.
Cecilia Okoye was McNeese’s leading scorer with a career-high 18.
“Nobody wants to lose their first conference game,” Okoye said. “The best thing we can do is just get ready for the next game and not let this take a toll.”
Jasmine Upchurch scored a game-high 19 for Northwestern State, while Keisha Lee added 16.