From SFA Athletics
A slow start by the SFA women’s basketball team paved the way for another dramatic comeback victory inside William R. Johnson Coliseum on Thursday afternoon, as the Ladyjacks outlasted Montana State 60-53 behind a resurgent second half-effort. The Ladyjacks erased a nine-point halftime deficit and pulled away late in the fourth quarter thanks to some timely buckets to improve to 6-2 on the season (6-0 home). Imani Johnson notched a double-double effort of 18 points and 10 rebounds to lead the way for SFA, while Marissa Banfield chipped in 12 and Riley Harvey, 10.
Heaven Hamling keyed a big late run by SFA, and her eight points off the bench were some of the game’s biggest. Harvey also hauled down ten boards to finish with her third double-double effort of the season. “Really good win for us against a solid team that we’re familiar with from a year ago”, said SFA head coach Mark Kellogg.
“It was a tale of two halves, or really three quarters, since in the first and second quarters we really weren’t efficient.We stayed with out, came out with a really good game plan. We didn’t have much identity offensively, but I was really proud of our effort defensively to hang around and give us a chance when we had no rhythm at all offensively in the first half.” Both teams started off cold in the opening minutes of the game, combined to make just four of their first 20 attempts. Despite this, the teams weren’t separated by more than a basket throughout the quarter, and the score would be tied 13-13 after Imani Johnson swished a three-pointer with seconds left on the clock. The basket gave her eight first-quarter points. Montana State would seize the first substantial lead of the contest in the second quarter, as Bobcats leading scorer Claire Lundberg scored seven straight points to help MSU turn a 15-15 game into a 24-18 lead. A scoring drought by the Ladyjacks spanning five minutes of the game saw the Bobcats take a 27-18 edge into the halftime break, a season low score for SFA at the break.
Coming out of the halftime intermission, SFA started to see some shots fall, and as such began to crawl back into the contest, Twice the 'Jacks cut the lead to just four points, before a 6-0 run in the waning moments of the third brought the game level and the William R. Johnson Coliseum crowd to its feet. Marissa Banfield’s three ball with 27 seconds left tied the game at 38-38, and was set up by an offensive rebound by Johnson. With momentum in their pocket for the first time all day, the 'Jacks would take their first lead of the contest (41-40) on an Imani Johnson three-point play to with nine minutes left to go in the game. SFA would take the lead for good thanks to some fourth-quarter heroics from Heaven Hamling, who scored a pair of big baskets in the paint on back-to-back possessions to put SFA ahead 48-44 with four minutes remaining. Locked in and determined, SFA would hold the Bobcats to just two points during the next four minutes of the game.
A clutch score down low from Johnson and several free throws from Riley Harvey and Marissa Banfield were enough to stay any late comeback hopes for the Bobcats in the final minute of play, and a layup by Harvey with six seconds left was the exclamation point onSFA’s third comeback victory of the season. “Well it’s not something I’d prefer to do” said Kellogg of his team’s comeback from a halftime deficit.
“I’m not really getting after them at halftime, we just talk it through and try to make adjustments because we know there’s a lot of basketball left. I was proud of our defensive effort just to keep us in that one, I was fine going into the half and being able to make a few adjustments that we couldn’t quite make in the first half, so I’m proud of this one and really all three of them we’ve had this season. There’s a saying I use quite a bit 'Weather the storm, and see how they respond.”
After scoring just 18 first-half points, SFA ended up outscoring their counterparts 42-26 in the second half, thanks to 52 percent shooting in the final two quarters. For the game, SFA converted on just 18-49 (36.7 percent( from the field and 6-26 (23.1 percent) from beyond the arc, but shot 18-24 from the free throw line to earn an 18-2 advantage at the free throw line. SFA eked out small advantages in second chance points (12-4) and fast break scores (7-0) to go along with a 35-28 advantage in rebounding.
“It was 18 points in the first half, and then we had 42 in the second half, so we settled in, and it still wasn’t from three, it was working through the paint and attacking to get to the free throw line” continued Kellogg. “Rebounding was big, they had just beat Long Beach State on the boards by I think 25 so we were doing rebounding drills all week. I was happy to see Imani and Riley get those double-doubles, and I thought Stephanie Visscher rebounded as well as she has in a Ladyjack uniform. Really proud of this one, it could’ve gone the other way but we stay tough, stayed resilient and were able to make the right plays.”
OF NOTE• Johnson’s double-double was the first of her Ladyjack career, while Harvey’s was her third of the season.
• SFA’s victory evens the series with the Bobcats at 1-1, with both teams winning the game played on their home court.
• SFA has now won its first six home games in three consecutive seasons.• The Ladyjacks improve to 42-7 inside William R. Johnson Coliseum under head coach Mark Kellogg.
• SFA has now won three games this season at home after trailing at the halftime break. (Yale, OLLU, Montana State).
• The announced attendance of 2,198 was the largest home crowd for the Ladyjacks this season, and included groups of schoolchildren from the local area.