A&M-Commerce’s season ends heartbreakingly to Southeastern in SLC Semifinals.
LAKE CHARLES, La. – A layup with 0.4 seconds left in overtime gave the top-seeded Southeastern Lady Lions a 60-58 win over the fifth-seeded Texas A&M University-Commerce women’s basketball team on Wednesday afternoon at the Legacy Center in the semifinal round of the Southland Conference Tournament, ending A&M-Commerce’s season.
In its first season in NCAA Division I, the Lions end the season with a record of 14-19, despite playing most of the season with just ten players and the second half of the conference without three starters from the season-opening game. A&M-Commerce tied for fourth in its first Southland Conference season while making the conference tournament semifinal.
Southeastern held A&M-Commerce without a made field goal in the final 2:39 of regulation, climbing back from being down seven to tie the game. Both teams had a chance for the game-winning basket in the last 30 seconds, but both shots were no good.
In overtime, A&M-Commerce did not make a field goal but knocked down four free throws to lead throughout the extra period, its first overtime game in nearly five years. SLU’s Hailey Giaratano drilled a layup with 0.4 seconds left in overtime for the Lady Lions’ first lead since the 1:40 mark of the second quarter.
Giaratano, who was a first-team all-Southland selection in 2022-23, scored four of the six points for the Lady Lions in overtime, who advance to play Lamar in the Southland title game on Thursday afternoon.
Thursday’s was the first overtime game for the A&M-Commerce women’s basketball program since November 16, 2018, against St. Edward’s.
A&M-Commerce made its first two shots from outside the three-point arc and held Southeastern without a field goal for three minutes and 18 seconds to build a 12-6 lead in the first. After the three minutes without field goals for SLU, SLU held A&M-Commerce without a field goal for over three minutes, and the Lady Lions took a 13-12 lead on a 7-0 run.
For the final 5:51 minutes of the first quarter, A&M-Commerce did not make a field goal, and it allowed Southeastern to lead 21-14 after the first, with SLU closing out the quarter on a 15-2 run.
DesiRay Kernal (Newton, Kan.) knocked down a layup at the 7:09 mark of the second quarter, with SLU leading by 10, for the Lions’ first made field goal since the 5:51 mark of the first quarter. The Lions made four consecutive baskets and held SLU without a field goal for three minutes and 35 seconds in the second quarter to cut the tie game at 27 on an 8-0 run.
Southeastern missed eight of its last nine field goals in the first half as A&M-Commerce retook the 31-29 lead on a three-pointer by Mia Deck (Frisco – Lone Star). A&M-Commerce closed the half on a 14-2 run to lead 33-29 at the break. Kernal scored 13 in the first half.
With a scoring drought of three minutes and 13 seconds by A&M-Commerce, Southeastern tied the game at 35 in the second half. Despite field-goalless deficits from both teams in the third, the Lions led 37-35 at the midway point of the quarter.
SLU’s scoring drought in the third was two minutes and 37 seconds, which allowed A&M-Commerce to lead by four. Then, Southeastern had another scoring drought of over three minutes, during which A&M-Commerce went on a 6-0 run to build a 45-37 lead.
The Lions held Southeastern to eight points in the second quarter, and nine in the third as the Lions led 45-38 going into the fourth. Southeastern made seven field goals in the first quarter and made just seven combined in the second and third quarters, shooting 7 for 28 in the two quarters.
The Lady Lions pulled to within one of A&M-Commerce by holding the Lions without a made basket for two minutes and 52 seconds. However, A&M-Commerce scored the next four, and SLU pulled to one to go back up by five.
A&M-Commerce scored its last point of the fourth quarter at the 2:39 mark. Behind a 7-0 run, Southeastern tied the game at 54 with 25.8 seconds left. A&M-Commerce could not come up with a shot in its final possession in regulation, giving the ball to SLU with 5.2 seconds left. The Lady Lions’ last attempt did not touch the rim.
The Lions ended the scoring drought at the 3:41 mark of overtime on a pair of free throws by Olivia Russell (Auburn Hills, Mich.), which gave A&M-Commerce a 56-54 lead. However, Southeastern tied the game at 58 with 20.2 seconds left, and Giaratono won it for the Lady Lions.
In every game during the conference tournament, Kernal led the team in points and assists. She scored 17 with six assists and nine rebounds. She averaged 21.3 points per game in the three games this week. Laila Lawrence (Lewisville) fell two points shy of a double-double. She tallied eight points, ten rebounds, and two assists.
Deck recorded six steals in the game, tied for the second most in program history. She also scored 10 points to go along with four rebounds. Russell and Collins scored nine each, with Russell also recording nine rebounds, while Collins had four rebounds and two steals.
Southeastern forced 22 turnovers in the game, largely thanks to all-defensive team selection, Jen Pierre’s five steals, who also led the team with 19 points.
This season marks the first losing season for the Lions since 2013-14 and the first season without 20 wins since 2017-18. Every player on the A&M-Commerce roster has at least one year of eligibility left.