By GARY STALLARD
SHREVEPORT – Keep calm…and go to Lubbock.
The Angelina College Lady Roadrunners added another chapter to their storied season by beating the No. 1 seed Tyler College Lady Apaches 60-39 in thoroughly convincing fashion in the Region XIV Women’s Conference Championship Saturday at Centenary College in Shreveport.
The win sends the Lady ‘Runners to the national tournament scheduled to begin next week at Lubbock Christian University in Lubbock, making the 2018-2019 squad the first women’s team in Angelina College history to advance to nationals.
Throughout Saturday’s game, the Lady Roadrunners offered a course in poise.
AC’s ability to handle pressure showed itself early. National Player of the Year Natasha Mack went down with an injury just three minutes into the game and missed nearly five full minutes. In her stead, the players on the floor kept the Lady Apaches in check. Mack would return before the end of the first quarter, and despite limping noticeably, finished the game with 30 points and 18 rebounds.
“That was a scary moment, but Natasha bounced back,” head coach Byron Coleman said. “We’ve been persevering through injuries all year long. These kids fought and they earned this.”
Mia Perkins helped relieve much of the load from Mack, finishing with 10 points and eight rebounds. Mia Williams hit for nine points and Taylor Jacob eight in the win.
“Mia Perkins has been huge for us down the stretch,” Coleman said. “She’s really elevated her game since the Christmas break. She and Natasha have been a dynamic duo down in the paint for us.”
The numbers may not have been as high as what AC usually produces, but much of that had to do with a strong Lady Apache team and its approach. Tyler held a 19-15 lead at the end of the first period, but the Lady ‘Runners never panicked, sticking to the game plan despite making adjustments on the fly.
“We wanted to get out and run, but Tyler did a great job keeping us from getting into our transition game,” Coleman said. “But we did a great job running our half-court offense, and we played enough defense to keep them from scoring the way they usually do.”
“Enough defense” doesn’t quite do AC’s effort credit. The Lady ‘Runners held a potent Tyler team to just six points in the third quarter – with just four of those occurring over the first eight minutes of the period – and just six more in the final frame. Only one Lady Apache reached double figures in scoring: Kennedy Burks with 11 points.
Following the game, Mack was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. Then the players, managers and others participated in the age-old tradition of cutting down the nets. Coleman went last, and the long-time head coach could hardly hide his emotion as he flashed those hard-earned strings toward the crowd.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Coleman said. “We’ve been an established program for quite a while, but this is a tough league, and we finally broke through. I’m speechless right now.”
On Monday, the NJCAA will release its national tournament seedings via live stream. The Lady Roadrunners will host a watch party starting at 9:30 a.m. in the conference room at Angelina College’s Technology and Workforce building. The selection show will begin at 10 a.m., and the Lady ‘Runners will learn just how high they’ve climbed with their performance in the tournament.
“We’re not done,” Coleman emphasized. “This is just one of many goals we set coming into this season. We’re still hungry for success at the national tournament.”
The e-mail address for AC’s Sports Information Director is firstname.lastname@example.org.