SEATTLE – Trailing 56-55 with 18 seconds to go in overtime at Seattle U on Saturday, Tarleton executed the imperative of its coaching staff to a tee.
Get the ball in the hands of the player most trusts to attempt a game-winner.
Enter Malaya Kendrick.
“Malaya was the one,” head coach Misty Wilson said. “It was unanimous that all of us agreed in that. Because she’s not a three-point threat, we had to find other ways. Luckily, I had that play drawn up.”
The play was a half-court offensive beauty.
Kendrick received an inbounds pass from position-mate Jurnee President. She promptly peeled right, dribbled underneath the rim and around two defenders, turned her lead left shoulder near the foul line and fired off a fadeaway jumper.
The shot rattled home, giving Tarleton a one-point lead with eight seconds remaining. A buzzer-beater from behind the arc from Redhawks guard Bree Callhoun then clanged off the iron, putting the Texans on the right side of a 57-56 overtime thriller.
“Coach Wilson was telling me before the game she already had drawn a play up like that,” Kendrick said. “I was asking everybody who they think they could get the ball to. I’m just a competitor and I like to win. I feel like my coaches believe in me, and I believe in them and I believe in their program.”
The bucket was without question the most significant of Kendrick’s first full season in Purple and White.
It staked Tarleton to its first victory over Seattle U on the hardwood. The Texans are now 12-7 overall and 4-4 in Western Athletic Conference play. Kendrick’s game-winner ensured Tarleton still has yet to lose back-to-back games. Tarleton is 8-0 following a loss.
The Texans capped a five-game stretch that spanned nine days with a 3-2 mark. The game marked Tarleton’s second straight one-point triumph. The Texans defeated Sam Houston 62-61 on Monday before falling to conference-leading California Baptist on Thursday.
Kendrick, who played all 45 minutes, scored four of Tarleton’s six points in overtime. The 5-7 senior corralled the opening tip in overtime and drove the ball to the rack to finish a floater with her right hand.
Seynabou Thiam then converted a layup out of the low block on Tarleton’s ensuing possession to give Tarleton a 55-51 edge in the extra period with 4:12 to go.
Seattle U scored on three of its next four possessions to prompt Wilson to burn time and draw up her decisive play.
Tarleton led 47-34 with 7:23 left in the fourth quarter – its largest lead of the afternoon – following consecutive triples by Jenna Dick. The Redhawks then held the Texans to just two field goals the rest of the way to even the score at 51-51 with 18 seconds remaining and send the game into overtime.
The Texans had assumed full control of the game prior to the Redhawks’ comeback bid. After trailing 21-13 early in the second quarter, Tarleton closed the first half on a 12-3 run to take a one-point lead into the intermission. The Texans then extended their advantage to seven points at 39-32 entering the fourth quarter.
Tarleton is now 4-1 in games decided by two-or-fewer possessions.
Kendrick was one of four players to finish with 12 points for Tarleton. Dick, Thiam and President and each tallied a dozen points.
Dick was 4-8 from the field and snagged five rebounds in 31 minutes off the bench.
Thiam matched her career-high in rebounds with 15 to record her second-straight double-double and fourth this season. The 6-6 center also swatted five shots to move her within five rejections of breaking Tarleton’s record for most blocks in a single season (59).
President enjoyed perhaps her most impactful offensive quarter out of halftime. She scored eight of her 12 points in the third quarter behind a pair of 3-pointers and a midrange jumper to put Tarleton in front 35-28 midway through the frame.
“I think Jurnee is harder on herself than anybody,” Kendrick said of President. ” Getting her going tonight was perfect for us. We need her to play like that every night. Her being patient and executing the ball well was perfect for us.”
The game was a physical affair down low. Seattle U snagged 51 rebounds while Tarleton was not far behind with 47 of its own. The teams combined to attempt just 10 foul shots. Both teams shot below 35 percent from the field.
The Texans, which lead the WAC in scoring defense (56.7 ppg), has now held 13 of its 19 opponents this season under 60 points.
Tarleton now has a chance to up its conference record back over .500 when it welcomes Lamar to Wisdom Gym at 6 p.m. on Thursday. The Cardinals defeated the Texans 73-58 in Beaumont on Dec. 5, 2020 in the first meeting between the schools on the Division I stage.