ELON, N.C. — It may not be the big show but McNeese State is making the most of its second chance.
The Cowgirls won the second national tournament game in program history Saturday, toppling Elon University 66-58 in the second round of the Women’s Basketball Invitational.
With the win the Cowgirls could get a chance to play a little closer to home in the semifinal round.
McNeese will meet the winner of today’s Lamar-South Dakota showdown. The eighth-seeded Cowgirls (20-14) will be on the road no matter what.
“We are rooting for Lamar,” said McNeese head coach Brooks Donald Williams. “It would be great for the conference and great for our fans who could drive over and see us play.”
It would also beat spending part of spring break in South Dakota.
Senior guard Ashlyn Baggett reached two personal milestones. She scored her 2,000th career point and made her 300th 3-pointer.
“It was great for Ashlyn and for the team,” said Donald Williams. “We have really embraced this opportunity to be playing. It may not be the NCAA tournament but we are one of the few teams still playing basketball at this time of the year and we are proud of that.”
The Cowgirls earned trips to the NCAA the last two seasons by winning the Southland Conference tournament. This year they lost in the semis, but instead of getting down they have rallied to win their last two games.
“You are not sure how kids will react but our girls have played tough in these two games,” said Donald Williams. “They want to keep playing as long as they can.”
Baggett finished with 14 points while her twin Caitlyn led all scorers with 23 on 6 of 12 shooting from the field that included a 4-for-6 effort from behind the arc. Younger sister Allison, a freshman, came off the bench to score 10.
“I think we are still getting better as a team, which means the girls are still working hard,” Donald Williams said. “They have not quit on the season.”
A Caitlyn Baggett trey with just over 9 minutes remaining broke a 44-44 tie and gave the Cowgirls the lead for good. Elon (19-14) cut the lead 56-55 with 4:52 remaining, but McNeese went on a 7-0 run to put the game away.
The Cowgirls got strong inside play from junior NeTanya Jones, who finished with a career high 10 rebounds with six defensive rebounds and four offensive.
“This is exciting for us,” Donald Williams said. “We are just trying to win a championship. We have been given a chance to play more basketball and that is what we want to do.
“We want to play until we have no more games left.”
They are hoping one of those games is played just an hour away from home.
McNeese and Lamar split a pair of close games during the regular season with each winning on the other’s home floor.
Time and date of the semifinals have yet to be determined.