Cards escape with win streak intact

Survive last-minute scramble

On Saturday afternoon, a McNeese State women’s basketball team that got more undermanned as the game wore on, pushed arguably the best team in the Southland Conference to the game’s last possession.

But the host Cowgirls, they didn’t have enough, as rival Lamar came into the Health and Human Performance Complex and squeaked out a 64-62 victory.

It was the 11th consecutive win for the Cardinals who extended with regular-season conference winning streak to 23 games.

Mo Kindard led the Cardinals with 22 points. Miya Crump scored 13.

Cowgirls junior guard Regan Bolton scored 23 points — her third 20-plus point game in SLC play — on 6-of-13 shooting from 3-point range. Redshirt freshman forward Callie Maddox had 15 points.

The Cowgirls (5-14, 3-5 SLC), who saw their four-game winning streak snapped, held first-place Lamar (16-4, 9-0) to its third-lowest offensive output of conference play. Additionally, no other SLC team had played the Cardinals closer than 13 points.

“We’re all not about moral victories, we all love to win,” McNeese head coach Kacie Cryer said. “And we just talked about that in the locker room. But the way that we played today against a very good, very veteran Lamar was extremely impressive and I’m extremely proud of this group of girls.”

With 21 seconds to play, the Cowgirls used a set play designed for Bolton. But her 3-point shot missed and McNeese had to settle for a Divine Tanks layup with 7 seconds left to make it 63-62.

The Cowgirls were forced to foul and Lamar’s Chastadie Barrs hit one of her two free throws to seal Lamar’s win.

Lamar’s athletic and physical defense made a big difference. The Cards forced McNeese to commit 29 turnovers and scored 32 points off them. By contrast, the Cowgirls forced 19 turnovers and scored 15 points.

Cowgirls point guard Jahquell Robinson started the game but did not finish after she injured her hand.

In her place, Jamara Levy and Maddisen Martin combined to commit turnovers.

“It’s something with her hand right now, we’re not really sure what her status is,” Cryer said of Robinson’s injury. “But I thought I thought Maddisen and Jamara both did a fantastic job coming off (the bench). I think, with our point guard spot, it’s really been a tag-team effort. We did get Maddisen back for this game and I think that it worked out; it was good to have her back. Just proud of all three of them.”

In the first half, Bolton carried the Cowgirls while the rest of the team struggled. The Hammond native scored 15 of McNeese’s 30 first-half points on 4-of-7 3-point shooting.

“My teammates do a good job of setting (me) up,” Bolton said. “They know that I’m a shooter so want to make sure I get open every single time. Lamar had trouble guarding our staggered screens. I hit shots when they were needed and everyone else hit shots as well when they were needed.”

But even though the Cowgirls — minus Bolton — struggled, their defense kept them in the game. In the first half, Lamar shot 35.7 percent (13 of 27). Additionally, Barrs, arguably one of the best players in the SLC, was in foul trouble and played 9 of the first 20 minutes. But a Jadyn Pimentel bank-shot 3-pointer beat the buzzer to give Lamar a 39-30 halftime lead.

Lamar applied the pressure in the third quarter that knocked out McNeese. The Cards opened the second half on an 11-6 run to take their largest lead at 50-36. But McNeese allowed Lamar to score three points over the last 4:33 of the quarter. The Cowgirls outscored the Cards 11-3 in that time span and with 12 minutes remaining, Lamar led 53-47.

McNeese fought back to tie the score at 53 in the fourth quarter thanks to two Levy free throws. That was part of an 11-0 run.

The Cowgirls took a 55-54 lead on a Damilola Balogun rebound and putback, but Lamar regained the lead on a Kinard layup 23 seconds later. McNeese would not lead again.

Despite tying the game two more times late, including at 60, McNeese started to feel the effects of foul trouble. Maddox, Balogun, and Bre’Ashlee Jones all fouled out late in the game. Balogun led the Cowgirls with seven rebounds.

With less than 2 minutes remaining, Barrs hit two free throws to put Lamar up 62-60.

On the next possession, Bolton missed a 3. Despite the Cowgirls forcing a miss, Balogun was called for an offensive foul, her fifth of the game. Rikiah Cowart hit a free throw to put the Cards up by three.

The Cowgirls tried to get the ball to Bolton to attempt a tying 3, but they instead hit Divine Tanks, who was cutting to the basket, for a layup. It took too long for the Cowgirls to foul Barrs when the ball was inbounded to her. She made her first free throw and missed the second, and the Cards rebounded the ball to run the clock out.