Alcorn women stop Grambling, to face SU

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 14, 2005

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. &045; The championship game is set, and it follows rules of natural procession.

In order for Alcorn State’s Lady Braves to be the best in the Southwestern Athletic Conference, they’ll have to beat the best. Their 59-50 win over Grambling State in the semifinals of the tournament Friday put them into the finals today against Southern, a the defending conference champ who downed Alabama State 58-51 Friday to get into the finals.

It’s the third straight appearance in the finals for Southern and head coach Sandy Pugh, who lost both games to Alcorn in the regular season. Tipoff is at 5 p.m.

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&uot;It’s going to be a totally different ball game,&uot; Alcorn head coach Shirley Walker said. &uot;Her team the last three years has been to the finals. It’s going to be tough. She has a well-coached team. She does have a big girl inside, but her strength is going to come from the 1, 2 and 3 people.

&uot;We’ll have to do what we do best. I know it’s going to be up to my players to evaluate themselves how we match up with Southern. I know they’re going to do some things different. We’ll go back, strategize and try to do something different.&uot;

The Lady Braves (20-8) had to fight off Grambling in the second half to put the game away and advance to the finals for the first time since the 2001 season. They got their 20th win also for the first time since that season &045; one that featured a SWAC championship, a 21-win season and a ticket to the NCAA Tournament.

Grambling took a one-point lead just before the halfway point in the second half before Alcorn turned it on with a 16-4 run to put the game away.

&uot;We played hard,&uot; GSU head coach David Ponton said. &uot;The execution just wasn’t there today. It was one of those days where if you’re playing a good team like Alcorn and a well-coached team and you don’t execute, you’re not going to win. This was one of those games where the ball wasn’t falling for us, but I’m proud of my kids.&uot;

Grambling led 37-36 thanks to a layup from Dominique Head at the 10:29 mark, and the Lady Tigers led by two at halftime. The Lady Braves even missed on their next two trips down the floor before LaToya Johnson hit two free throws at the 9:10 mark to give her club the lead.

That’s when the Lady Braves &045; notorious for sub-par shooting from the free-throw line &045; canned eight straight from the line. Johnson hit two with 6:16 left for a 46-41 lead, and she tossed in a bucket 15 seconds later for a 48-41 lead.

Tnonealyer Powers came through with a basket at the 2:42 mark for a 52-41 lead.

Johnson led the Lady Braves with 18 points.

&uot;We don’t have a good free-throw shooting team,&uot; Walker said. &uot;We’ve been shooting very poorly. I told them they’ve got to respect the free-throw line. I think what happened was they see free throws can win games. Free throws are so important.&uot;

Alcorn took a 20-10 lead early in the first half before Grambling got hot and eventually took the lead at halftime. Dominique Headd hit a 3-pointer with 7:46 left to start a 14-2 GSU run that ended with a free throw from Juleen Smith for a 24-22 lead at the 3:39 mark.

Headd converted a three-point play with 47 seconds left, and Tasha Wilmore scored with eight seconds left the 29-27 GSU lead at the break.

&uot;I know we’ll be back here again next year,&uot; Ponton said. &uot;This is only the third time in 12 years we haven’t made it to the finals. We did a much better job in the paint, but it’s a two-half game. You can’t play one half one way and the other half the other way.&uot;

Headd led Grambling with 19 points.

Sims added 11 for Alcorn.