By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (January 19, 2019) — Tiara Tatum could have watched Sasha Watson run away with an easy layup. Instead, Tatum made the play of the game.
With Tarleton (7-8, 6-3) leading 56-49 and West Texas A&M (13-5, 6-3) scrambling to find some life, Watson took the ball away from Tatum and sprinted the other way. Only Tatum didn’t turn and watch in frustration, but instead turned and stayed one step behind Watson until blocking her layup attempt from behind.
The ball went off the backboard, Tatum gathered it and went on the attack all the way to the other baseline just left of the basket before darting a pass through traffic to the right wing where a wide open Bailey Wipff buried a 3-pointer for a 10-point TexAnn lead with less than two minutes to play.
It was 59-49 after the big transition exchange – basically, a 5-point play that gave Tarleton all the momentum – and the Lady Buffs could get no closer than 60-54 down the stretch.
The TexAnns jump into a third-place tie alongside WTAMU and Texas A&M-Commerce in the Lone Star Conference. They are each two games behind Angelo State and three behind Eastern New Mexico. ENMU visits ASU on Saturday, while Tarleton welcomes UT-Permian Basin to Stephenville at 4 p.m. WTAMU travels to fifth-place Texas A&M-Commerce Saturday.
Tarleton was led again by Mackenzie Hailey, who earned her ninth double-double of the season – her fourth straight – by the end of the third quarter. Hailey had eight points and eight rebounds by halftime and added another five points and four boards for 13 and 12 through entering the fourth. She finished with 17 and 12, respectively, with all of her fourth quarter points coming from the foul stripe where she was 9-11 for the game.
Tatum didn’t just make the play of the game, but also haunted WTAMU throughout the on test with 13 points on 5-7 shooting including 3-4 form the arc. Ikpeaku Iwobi had eight points and seven boards.
Bailey Wipff scored just seven for Tarleton, but they all came in the fourth quarter. She had back-to-back buckets for her first four points of the game to re-establish the eight-point lead Tarleton held at the end of the third quarter, then buried the 3 off the nifty transition pass by Tatum. Wipff also had four boards and four assists.
Travanti Downes ended the third in style, knocking down a 12-foot turn-around-jumper right at the buzzer to send Tarleton to the fourth leading 46-38. The TexAnns outscored WTAMU 22-13 in the third after trailing by one at the intermission.
WTAMU scored late in the shot clock with three seconds left in the first half and Tarleton missed on a heave at the buzzer to leave the Lady Buffs on top, 25-24, at halftime.