By Nick Hampton
WARNER – It started out as the game that nobody wanted to win as the Connors State Cowgirls took on the Lady Buffaloes of Arkansas Baptist College Monday night at Melvin Self Field House.
But it became a barn burner in the second half that ended the season for the Cowgirls as they lost to the Lady Buffaloes 63-59 in a play-in game for the right to advance to the NJCAA Region II Tournament later this week in Shawnee.
Uninspired might be a kind description of the first half as neither team played well. The Cowgirls committed 12 turnovers in the half. Arkansas Baptist was whistled for 15 fouls but Connors could only convert 8-of-17 from the free-throw line and didn’t get their first point until nearly four minutes were gone in the half.
“We have not started many games very good scoring-wise,” said Connors coach Eddie Kite. “We have just been a slow-starting team.”
Despite the rocky beginning, the Cowgirls (16-14) managed to keep it close in the first half, finally gaining the lead at halftime 25-22, after shutting the Lady Buffaloes out the last four minutes.
Both teams picked up the pace in the second half as the Cowgirls went on a 10-0 run out of the gate to own their widest lead of the night, 35-24, with 16 minutes to play. They still held that 11-point lead at 41-30 with 13:48 to play.
But then Arkansas Baptist started working their way back behind the play of sophomore Taylor Green, who hit a 3-point basket to tie the game at 45-45 with 8:10 to play.
“What really killed us was our free-throw shooting (18-of-33),” said Kite. “We’ve been so inconsistent on that. We’ll have some games where we hit 70 percent and then turn around and hit 50 percent or less.”
The Cowgirls grabbed their final lead at 56-55 with 2:05 to play, but Green canned a three to give the Arkansas Baptist a lead it would not relinquish at 58-56.
Tiara Hall and Shakayla Love finished their Connors careers with 16 points each to lead the way while Tonisha Dean also finished in double figures with 11. Green poured in 29 points and was the only Lady Buffalo in double figures.
What started as a promising year for the Cowgirls fell victim to injuries at semester break.
“Right before Christmas we had 10 players that we were rotating in,” said Kite. “Then we lost a scorer and point guard (Raven Massey) and a post player (Courtney Medcalf) and the lack of depth hurt in the second half of the season.”
Arkansas Baptist (15-14) advances to the Region II tournament to face Northeastern A&M on Thursday.
The Cowboys face Seminole in their first game of the men’s tournament at 8 p.m. Wednesday at Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee.