GARLAND, Texas – Prairie View A&M advanced to the championship round of the SWAC Tournament for the fourth time in five seasons as the Lady Panthers knocked off Grambling State 47-41 in the semifinal round on Friday at the Special Events Center.
After senior guard Dominique Smith hit the game’s opening basket, the Lady Panthers found themselves down quickly as GSU opened with a 7-0 surge for a 7-2 margin nearly five minutes in. The Lady Panthers regained the lead three minutes later as senior Whitney Williams, sophomore Sharde Henry and freshman Siarra Soliz hit baskets en route to a 9-7 advantage.
With the lead back in their possession, the Lady Panthers turned up the intensity on both ends of the court as they held Grambling State to only seven points over a span of 11 minutes. Offensively, Prairie View A&M continued to roll as Dominique Smith and Robin Jones hit a pair of baskets which extended their lead to double digits at 24-14 with 4:14 remaining.
Grambling nailed a trey to draw within seven at 24-17 at the 4:03 mark. Prairie View A&M went cold from the field after the run and missed a prime opportunity to pad its lead as they shot 0-for-5 along with three untimely turnovers over the final four minutes. Despite the cold streak, PV hung tough defensively as they held GSU scoreless for a 24-17 halftime lead.
Prairie View’s shooting woes carried over to the second half as they missed a plethora of shots over the first eight minutes of the second stanza. On the opposite end of the court, Grambling State made its baskets as they pulled ahead 25-24 after a basket from Secrett Anderson with 14:07 remaining.
Senior Robin Jones ended the drought as she converted a huge three-point play the old-fashioned way for a 27-25 lead but PV failed to capitalize as they continued to struggle from the field. Once again though, the Lady Panthers remained stingy on the defensive end and found themselves tied at 27-all at the 8:32 mark.
With the possibility of this being her last game, Dominique Smith broke the tie with a layup and caused havoc on the defensive end as she stole a GSU pass and was fouled on the shot attempt several minutes later. Smith hit both free throws and put the Lady Panthers ahead 31-27 with 5:59 left in the contest.
GSU closed to within three on a free throw but PV persevered and upped its margin to 34-28 with 4:27 left after LeReahn Washington’s free throw and Whitney Williams’ jumper. PV’s six-point advantage held over the next minute but GSU continued to hang around and chip away at the lead as they trimmed PV’s lead to 37-35 after two free throws with 2:22 remaining.
With the momentum swinging back to GSU, freshman Siarra Soliz emerged as the Houston native nailed a jumper for 39-35 lead. Redshirt sophomore Latia Williams made a key steal on the ensuing possession and Soliz was sent to the charity stripe after being fouled with 1:28 left. Soliz hit both free throws for a 41-35 lead but GSU’s Rachele Dobbins willed her team to the finish line with consecutive baskets for a 41-39 PV lead as the clock read 28 seconds.
After two PV timeouts, head coach Toyelle Wilson drew up a successful inbounds play which featured a wide-open Soliz streaking towards a layup and a 43-39 margin. On the defensive end, Soliz gave up her body and drew a huge charge on the ensuing possession which proved to be the knockout blow as PV hit four free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
“I put a lot of pressure on Siarra,” said Wilson. “I told a lot of people this, ‘I almost forget she’s only played 20 conference games’, but I put a lot on her because I expect a lot out of her.”
Both Soliz and Jones led PV with 12 points apiece while Smith chipped in 10. Jones completed the double-double with 10 rebounds with Latia Williams also grabbing eight boards.
“I told the girls three words ‘survive and advance’,” added Wilson. “We survived and are advancing.”
The Lady Panthers will fight for their third NCAA Tournament berth in program history on Saturday evening as they square off against Southern at 5 p.m. in Garland, Texas. The contest will be televised live on ESPNU.