KATY, Texas - The Stephen F. Austin Ladyjacks had three players scored in double-figures, including a team-high 15 points from Tammara Marion, and closed the final six minutes on an 18-10 run to defeat Nicholls State 66-57 in the semifinals of the Southland Conference Tournament Thursday afternoon.
SFA clinched a berth in the SLC Tournament championship for the first time since 2007 and their 17th appearance overall. They will play No. 2 seed McNeese State Friday at 7:05 p.m. in hopes of winning their 16th tournament title and earn an automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament.
Just as was the case on Tuesday against Lamar, the Ladyjacks late-game execution was superb, scoring on six of their last seven possessions to break things open in what was a one-point game with just six minutes remaining.
Following a pair of Annette Davis free throws to give SFA a 50-47 lead, the Ladyjacks defense came up with a stop and then Brittney Matthew connected on one of her three, three-pointers in the game to give SFA a 53-47 advantage.
One possession later, Marion also drained home a three-pointer to push the lead to 56-49 with 4:44 to play. The Ladyjacks then put the game away with back-to-back layups from Davis and Sha Turner to make the score 60-51 with just three minutes remaining and the defense swallowed Nicholls' along the three-point to seal the victory and move on to the next round.
One game after making 14-of-25 from three-point territory against No. 1 seed Central Arkansas, the Colonels shot just 5-of-20 from beyond the arch against SFA and just 32 percent from the floor overall for the game.
SFA dominated the boards, outrebounding Nicholls 43-26 with eight players snatching four or more rebounds.
The Colonels were led in scoring by KK Babin, who had 14 points but shot just 5-of-17 from the floor and 4-of-11 from three-point land. She was joined in double-digit scoring by Sumar Leslie (10 points).
The Ladyjacks' victory marked the completion of SFA's "redemption tour", defeating all of the conference teams that defeated them the first time around this season.
After leading for the entire first half, the SFA offense bogged down in the final minutes and allowed Nicholls to erase what was once a 21-13 lead into a 25-25 halftime score.
Neither team shot the ball particularly well in the first half with the Ladyjacks shooting just 32 percent compared to 31 percent for the Colonels.
Mells led SFA with eight points and made two-of-5 attempts from three-point territory while Babin had six points for Nicholls State.
SFA was outscored by Nicholls 14-8 points in the paint in the first 20 minutes of action and Roberts was held to just two points on 1-of-4 shooting and no rebounds.
Friday's championship game will be televised on the Southland Conference Network, which will be on MYTX Channel 8 in Nacogdoches as well as on ESPN3.com. The game can also be heard on the radio on Q107.7 FM with the pregame show starting at 6:45 p.m.