By BRAD KEITH
Photos by Dr. CHET MARTIN
STEPHENVILLE (January 21, 2015) — No. 10 West Texas A&M missed 14 consecutive shots, then out of nowhere, a line-drive, left-wing 3-pointer by Madison McLain tied the game with four seconds left in regulation Wednesday night.
The Lady Buffs (13-2, 4-1) then took the lead for good on consecutive baskets by Sasha Watson and Ariel Robertson, and held on for an 87-86 win over Tarleton State (9-5, 3-3) in a Lone Star Conference battle at Wisdom Gym.
Raven McGrath appeared to steal the ball with 37 seconds remaining in overtime and Tarleton trailing 84-82, but the official ruled the ball was still loose – and therefore still in possession of West Texas A&M – when Maddison Wild fouled McGrath. The ruling was crucial because Tarleton had to inbound the ball in the backcourt instead of McGrath going to the line – where she was 3-4 – with a chance to tie the game.
As it played out, Breanna Fuller was fouled inside but missed both free throws.
McGrath then fouled out to stop the clock with 16 seconds left, and Michaela Neuhaus knocked down a pair to push the Lady Buff lead to four.
Kathy Thomas, who just missed her career highland led all scorers with 24, drove and was fouled with seven seconds remaining, hitting both to make it a two-point margin again.
Tarleton fouled McLain and she hit just one free throw, leaving Tarleton with one last chance. Wipff banked a 3-point attempt off the glass from the left wing, and though Thomas beat the buzzer with a put back, it wasn’t enough.
West Texas A&M stayed within a half game of LSC leader Cameron with the win, while the narrow loss dropped Tarleton to sole possession of sixth in the league. The top seven teams are all within 2.5 games early in the race.
Tarleton visits seventh-place Eastern New Mexico at 3 p.m. (CST) Saturday in Portales, NM.
Media sitting close to West Texas A&M’s bench believed Tarleton’s fate to be most unfortunate, saying Lady Buff head coach Mark Kellogg was screaming for a timeout that he didn’t get before McLain’s game-tying 3-pointer went through the net in the closing seconds of regulation.
Thomas had a shot to win it at the end of Tarleton, but it was 35-foot heave at the buzzer and it caromed off the top of the backboard and away.
The game was close the entire second half after Tarleton turned an 11-point deficit into a one-pony lead over the final 5:30 of the first half. Neither team led by more than seven in the second half or by more than four in overtime. There were 10 total ties and eight lead changes.
Each team turned the ball over 17 times, but it was West Texas A&M that cashed in those opportunities, outscoring the TexAnns 27-14 in points off turnovers. Tarleton responded with a 28-18 advantage off the bench.
Each team had four double-digit scorers. In addition to Thomas’ offensive explosion, Fuller played her best game as a TexAnnn with a season highs in points with 19 and rebounds with nine. Iwobi had 12 points and seven boards while Wipff scored 10.
Watson led West Texas A&M with 19 points, seven rebounds and four assists, while Ariel Robertson scored 17 and collected five boards and five assists. Chontiquah White had 14 points before fouling out with 4:55 left in regulation. The Lady Buffs had missed six straight shots before White fouled out, then missed their next eight before McLain’s tying 3-pointer.
The tough finishing stretch was the only time the Lady Buffs struggled from the field. They still managed to shoot 46.9 percent for the game, including going 4-5 from the floor in overtime.
The TexAnns shot 49.2 percent for the game including 58.6 percent in the opening half.
Tarleton closed the first half on a big run to take a 42-41 lead into intermission. They trailed 38-27 before reeling off 11 straight points to tie the game with 2:32 left in the half. Thomas had four points during the run, which was answered by three straight from the Lady Buffs.
A Breanna Fuller layup and two free throws by Wipff gave the TexAnns the lead, and neither team scored over the final 51 seconds of the half.
Before the TexAnns could even think of getting the lead, they had to settle down enough to stay in the game. WTAMU started in a full-court press and forced turnovers on Tarletn’s first four possessions to jump out to a 7-2 lead.
Tarleton answered quickly with a Wipff jumper, a layup by Iwobi and a jumper by Thomas for its first lead of 8-7. It was 18-18 until WTAMU scored 20 of the next 29 to lead by 11 before Tarleton’s big run to tend the half.
The Lady Buffs return home to Canyon to host Texas A&M-Commerce at 2 p.m. Saturday.