Alcorn women get No. 1

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 14, 2005

BATON ROUGE &045;Tnonealyer Powers had never hit a game-winning shot in her career.

Not in her four-year career at Alcorn, not in high school, not even back in elementary school.

Perhaps then it’s fitting that her first game-winning shot would also secure her first SWAC championship.

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At Southern Saturday, Powers threw up a jump shot from the free-throw line that hit the rim and fell through as the buzzer sounded, giving Alcorn (17-7, 13-3) a 57-55 win over the Lady Jaguars (12-13, 9-7) but more importantly secured a regular season conference crown for the Lady Braves and the No. 1 seed in the SWAC tournament.

Powers was instantly mobbed by her teammates, who surrounded her and celebrated for several minutes before heading back into the locker room.

&uot;I wound up getting open and took the shot and just started praying it went in and it did,&uot; Powers said. &uot;I just got it and went, I wasn’t thinking (about the clock). It was my first time to hit a winning shot like that.&uot;

Her shot also ensured that Alcorn will win the first SWAC championship of Powers’ career.

&uot;This is a great way to end my career, my first time as SWAC champions. Our goal is to win the SWAC championship and we want to go in and win that tournament,&uot; Powers said.

Alcorn’s Natasha Dennis passed the ball to Powers at the top of the key with 2.5 seconds to go. Powers dribbled once, then pulled up and shot. The buzzer sounded as the ball hit the rim. But it almost didn’t happen that way.

The play head coach Shirley Walker called was actually designed to go to guard Shikhia Sims on the perimeter for a shot. When Powers flashed open, Dennis instead threw the ball to her for the final shot.

&uot;No, it wasn’t designed for me,&uot; Powers said. &uot;We were trying to get the ball to Shikhia, but they covered her and played her well defensively.&uot;

Walker said after the game she couldn’t remember clearly the final play.

&uot;I remember seeing the ball go through the basket and thinking, ‘Is it real? Is it real?’&uot; Walker said. &uot;Then I saw the kids huddle up over there on the court, and I knew it was real. I’m very happy. I had to sit on the bench for a minute to see if the answer was really true.&uot;

Southern coach Sandy Pugh said Powers never should have even had a chance to take the shot.

&uot;With 2.5 seconds, you tell post players that if there’s any lob passes, just bat it,&uot; Pugh said. &uot;She never should have taken that shot. I’m angry but angry won’t get me what I want.&uot;

In the closing seconds, both teams had their chances to win. Alcorn’s LaToya Johnson hit two free throws with 1:42 to go to give her team a 55-53 lead. The teams exchanged possessions without a score and then Rolanda Monroe hit a running floater as she fell over Powers to tie the game at 55 with 24.5 seconds left.

Alcorn called a timeout to talk things over, then Southern’s Pugh called a timeout of her own. When Alcorn finally in-bounded the ball, Sims called a timeout with 2.5 seconds to go, setting up the final play.

&uot;We weren’t planning to call a timeout with 2.5 left,&uot; Walker said. &uot;But I told them to call time if we got in trouble.&uot;

The shot will likely overshadow what probably should have been a win for the Lady Jaguars, who shot better from the field, 3-point range and at the line, out-rebounded Alcorn 30-28 and had more steals and blocks. The Lady Jaguars led 30-27 in the game, one that featured 10 ties and seven lead changes.

The one thing Alcorn did significantly better, and what may have won them the game, was getting to the free-throw line. The Lady Braves took 17 more attempts and made eight more free throws than their opponent.

The other thing Alcorn did better was playing well down the stretch.

&uot;I thought we hand-delivered Alcorn a championship,&uot; Pugh said. &uot;We had too many turnovers. You can’t have your point guard turning the ball over. You have to have Rolanda Monroe shooting down the stretch. These kids have to learn how to win, and you win through execution &045; not hurried-up offense.&uot;

Alcorn took care of the ball and got some contributions from Sims, who along with Powers led the Lady Braves with 11 points each.

&uot;I knew it was going to be a tough game coming in here,&uot; Walker said. &uot;I knew they had gotten much better since we saw them in the first round. I told them there’s nothing we did wrong, but I thought we didn’t step up on our defense.&uot;

Monroe led the Lady Jaguars with 21 points as the only Southern player in double figures.