Texans dispatch Thunderbirds in home finale, on doorstep of WAC Tournament berth


STEPHENVILLE – Tarleton State is on the verge of a WAC Tournament berth after taking care of business on Senior Day Saturday, dispatching Southern Utah 69-63 in a crucial conference game.

This was the home finale for the Texans (9-18, 6-12 WAC), who entered the contest tied with the Thunderbirds (7-20, 5-13 WAC) in the WAC standings at seventh. Tarleton State now sits in seventh place alone in the standings, a full game up on Nos. 8 Southern Utah, UTRGV and Seattle U at 5-13, and two games up on No. 11 Utah Valley at 4-14. Eight teams make the tournament in Las Vegas, and due to multiple tiebreaking scenarios, the Texans are in great position if it comes to that. The Texans can officially clinch a berth Thursday with a win and losses by UTRGV and Seattle U.

Tarleton swept the week after beating Utah Tech on Thursday. This marks the first winning streak by the Texans this season, as they finish 5-8 at home.

It was another solid crowd at Wisdom Gym Saturday who helped celebrate Tarleton’s lone senior student-athlete Teresa Da Silva at halftime. As for the game itself, Tarleton led most of the way, although it was a fairly competitive affair throughout the 40 minutes. The Texans held the lead for 30 minutes compared to just five minutes that the Thunderbirds were ahead.

“I thought our team showed toughness and determination today as we had to battle through early foul trouble and played most of the first half with our two starting post players on the bench,” head coach Bill Brock said. “Our guards did a good job of handling the ball again today and we made good basketball decisions on the offensive end of the floor. These two victories this week put us in the conversation for the postseason conference tournament. Now we have to prepare and get ready for our last road trip next week.”

Southern Utah jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead, and Brock saw enough, calling a timeout to regroup his team. It worked, as the Texans settled down and proceeded to go on a 13-2 run, seven points by Elise Turrubiates and five by Lexi Bull. The Thunderbirds closed the gap from there and ended the first quarter up a point, 20-19.

Tarleton won the second quarter 18-12, forcing Southern Utah to go 0-of-7 from distance. Jakoriah Long led with seven points in the frame, and the Texans had just two turnovers, heading to the break up 37-32.

In the middle of the third quarter, Tarleton turned a six-point lead into a 15-point advantage with an 11-2 run over three minutes of action, with five points from Turrubiates and four from Faith Acker. Acker played just 59 seconds in the first half as she picked up two quick fouls, proceeding to play the entire third quarter and dominating, shooting 5-of-6 in the frame for 10 points with four rebounds.

In the fourth quarter, the Texans held a double-digit lead most of the way, although Southern Utah didn’t give up. The Thunderbirds cut it to eight with two minutes left, but Tarleton was never in danger. Southern Utah drained a three at the buzzer to lose by six.

The Texans had consecutive games shooting well, going 26-of-59 (.441) to Southern Utah’s 25-of-62 (.403) clip. They also had just 10 turnovers, a combined 16 over their past two games.

Turrubiates led the team in scoring for a second straight games, pouring in 16 points on 5-of-8 shooting. Acker finished with 14 points on 7-of-11 shooting, adding six rebounds, two assists and two steals. Long totaled 13 points, five rebounds and three assists. Bull led the reserves with nine points and six rebounds. Da Silva, on her Senior Day, returned to the starting lineup and finished with six rebounds and two steals.

The Thunderbirds used a seven-woman rotation, and had three score in double figures. Ava Uhrich had a game-high 17 points, adding five rebounds. Daylani Ballena finished with 16 points and four rebounds. Shiho Isono came off the bench to tally 13 points (6-10 FG), five rebounds, four assists and two steals.

The Texans have just two regular season games remaining before a potential WAC Tournament bid. Both games are on the road, starting Thursday at Utah Valley in Orem, Utah, at 7 p.m. CT.

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