GARLAND, Texas — Arkansas-Pine Bluff’s hopes of its first berth into the NCAA women’s basketball tournament ended Friday at the hands of Mississippi Valley State.
A’Shanti Weathers scored 20 points to lead all scorers, and third-seeded Valley shot 53.3 percent from three-point range in taking a 69-55 victory in the SWAC semifinals at the Curtis Culwell Center. Valley (17-14) will play Mississippi Valley State*** or Prairie View at noon today for the championship and an automatic NCAA berth.
Seventh-seeded UAPB finished 13-18, but enjoyed a 12-victory improvement from last season under first-year coach Nate Kilbert, who spent the previous 11 seasons at Valley.
It was still anybody’s game 2 minutes into the second half, when UAPB last led 23-22. From there, Valley took advantage of six Lady Lions turnovers and built a 16-0 run to hold a 38-23 lead with less than 15 minutes left. The Lady Lions never pulled within single digits after that.
UAPB struggled shooting from the field all game, hitting 31 percent (18 of 58). Trailing 22-18 at halftime, the Lady Lions hit only 6 of 27 at the time.
They also had trouble taking care off the ball with 29 turnovers to the Devilettes’ 17.
Chi Chi Okwumabua nearly got a double-double in her final UAPB game, however, with 19 points and eight rebounds. She was 7 of 13 from the field and had three steals.
Lakendra Marsh finished with 17 points, Jenise Gentry added nine, and Asia Rhines-Malone grabbed 10 rebounds despite going scoreless for UAPB. All three are seniors.
Neither team led by more than five points in the first half, but the Devilettes took advantage of the Lady Lions’ miscues and shot 57.7 percent (15 of 26) from the field in the final 20 minutes. They hit 24 of 59 for the game for 40.7 percent, including 8 of 15 from the arc, and sank 13 of 20 free throws for 65 percent.
UAPB hit 5 of 14 from three-point range and made 14 of 20 free throws.
For Valley, Joncyee Sanders scored 11 points, totaled nine assists, grabbed six rebounds, blocked two shots and made two steals, and Khristina Clemons added 10 points.
The loss ends a season-long four-game winning streak for the Lady Lions, including a 63-51 victory at Valley in the Feb. 28 regular-season finale.
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***This article has been updated from its original version to correct a team name.