GARLAND, Texas – The Prairie View A&M Lady Panthers captured their third NCAA Tournament berth in program history as they outscored Southern 10-0 over the final 5:13 to claim a 48-44 comeback victory at the Special Events Center.
Holding a five-point halftime lead (27-22), the Lady Panthers watched their lead evaporate as Southern began to click offensively en route to a 33-31 deficit with 14:24 remaining. With the momentum back in Southern’s corner coupled with a shooting drought by the Lady Panthers, the Jaguars extended their lead to 37-32 with 10:36 remaining. Freshman Siarra Soliz ended the drought as she scored PV’s first basket in nearly nine minutes with a layup for a 37-34 deficit at the 8:56 mark. Southern’s Freda Allen pushed the lead back to five on the ensuing possession but PV cut it to 39-36 on Robin Jones’ two free throws.
Southern, the SWAC’s Regular Season champion and chief rival of No. 2 seeded Prairie View A&M, matched its largest lead of the evening nearly two minutes later as Hannah Kador drained a three-pointer followed by a layup from Allen as PV’s deficit grew to eight at 44-36 with 5:13 remaining.
With the game slipping away and the once boisterous PV crowd silent, senior Dominique Smith hit a big jumper to draw PV within six at 44-38 with 4:47 left. Southern missed a shot on the ensuing possession and PV took advantage as Soliz was fouled and hit both free throws for a 44-40 deficit. PV’s defense began to stiffen as SU missed another shot while Latia Williams made her biggest shot of the game and career as her soft jumper took a shooter’s bounce and rolled in which brought PV to within two at 44-42 with 3:25 left.
After consecutive missed baskets by the Jaguars on their next trip down the court, Smith was fouled after Whitney Williams’ offensive rebound and hit 1-of-2 to narrow the gap to 44-43 right at the two-minute mark. PV had a shot to claim the lead after a Smith steal but Soliz’s shot attempt was blocked by SU’s Laneisha Stephens. Southern rebounded the blocked shot but PV came up huge defensively as they drew a charge on SU’s Ashley Augerson with 55 seconds left on the clock.
As time ticked down, Jones made the biggest shot of her three-year tenure as her jumper off a LeReahn Washington assist led to a 45-44 PV lead with 34 seconds left. Once again, Prairie View A&M came up huge defensively as they drew its second consecutive charge on the following possession.
With only 26 seconds left, SU was forced to foul and Soliz hit 1-of-2 free throws to up PV’s margin to 46-44. The Jaguars missed a desperation trey which led to a rebound by Smith and a SU foul. Smith hit 1-of-2 free throws for a 47-44 lead with 15 seconds left and Soliz put the icing on the cake as she hit 1-of-2 free throws for a two-possession contest and PV’s third NCAA trip in five seasons and first under first-year head coach Toyelle Wilson.
“Our defense won the Championship today,” Wilson said. “The team was resilient and never thought they would lose.”
In the first half, SU stormed out to a 10-2 lead seven minutes in but PV fought back with a 13-5 run to knot the contest at 15-all. SU ran out to a 20-15 margin with 5:42 left but PV answered with a bang as they led 27-22 following a 12-2 surge over the final 5:09.
Soliz, the SWAC Tournament MVP, led the Lady Panthers with 21 points as the Houston native also grabbed six rebounds. Smith added 10 points and six rebounds while Latia Williams scored eight points with nine rebounds. Soliz and Jones also earned All-Tournament honors.
“We really owe this to our students and fans that made the trip as they really supported our team,” said PV Athletic Director Fred Washington. “They motivated and lifted our team to the SWAC Championship.”
With the win, PV advances to the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament for the third time in university history. ESPN will exclusively unveil the 64-team NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship field for the 20th consecutive year on the Selection Monday Special Presented by Capital One Monday, March 14, at 6 p.m. The special will be available in its entirety on ESPN HD and simulcast on ESPN3.com.