GARLAND, Texas – They fought harder than they had all season and expended every ounce of energy in a four-overtime thriller. The Lady Panthers dug in deep, made the gritty plays and defensive stands to accomplish the improbable. Prairie View A&M defeated Mississippi Valley 100-87 in the Southwestern Athletic Conference Championship to earn their third-consecutive SWAC Conference Championship and earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
“We played a game and a half,” Prairie View A&M coach Toyelle Wilson said. “We played a game and a half and they still wanted to go on. By the fourth overtime they were running on pure will and determination.”
Prairie View A&M improved to 9-0 under Wilson in SWAC Tournament Championship games. Senior forward Latia Williams completed what few other athletes have been able to do. She improved to 12-0 as an active player in conference tournament games and earned her fourth conference championship ring.
Sophomore Jeanette Jackson took over in the fourth overtime period and started the Lady Panthers off on a 6-2 run. She scored four consecutive points and made a runner with 2:36 left to give Prairie View A&M a 91-87 lead. Prairie View A&M held on from there, and Jackson’s seven overtime points was part of her 13-point, 5 assist total. Mississippi Valley did not score from the field in the final overtime period.
Jackson was the star of overtime, but Kiara Etienne was the game changer. She scored a career-high 31 points and was at her best defensively with five steals. Fifth-year senior Latia Williams picked up her third double-double of the SWAC Tournament. She scored 17 points had 13 rebounds and added five steals in 54 minutes. She overcame a mental block that plagued her most of the season and hit 11-of-12 free throws in the game. She was a 49 percent free throw shooter entering the SWAC Championship game.
“I told coach we can go all night if we want to,” Williams said. “I bet they’re leaving the court before we do. We came here to get the win, and we weren’t leaving without it.”
In the third overtime period sophomore forward Asha Hampton-Finch came off the bench and made a layup with 2:20 remaining to give the Panthers an 83-81 lead. Mississippi Valley tied the game with 2:06 remaining. However, thanks to a steal by LaReahn Washington, Etienne was able to drain two free throws with 40 seconds left. Prairie View A&M needed the stop, but Khristina Clemons hit a put-back layup as time expired to send the game into a fourth overtime.
Prairie View A&M coach Toyelle Wilson called a timeout with 16 seconds remaining in the second overtime period and the game tied at 77. Prairie View A&M, however, missed two shots in its final possession to send the game into a third overtime session.
Jeanette Jackson and Larissa Scott made the first two shots of the first overtime period to give the Lady Panthers a 69-65 lead, but the Devilettes responded with a 6-0 run to go ahead 71-69 off of an Alia Frank layup with the foul shot. JaQuandria Williams hit a put-back layup with 40 seconds in the first overtime session to tie the game. The Lady Panthers made a defensive stand to send the game into the second overtime. Scott scored a career-high 24 points and had seven rebounds and five blocks before fouling out after 51 minutes of play. JaQuandria Williams finished with seven points and 12 rebounds.
Prairie View A&M took a 64-63 lead in the second half of regulation when Latia Williams drained two clutch free throws with 2:02 left. Jeanette Jackson then came up with a steal by playing the passing lane on the next defensive possession. Kiara Etienne then made one free throw with 54 seconds left to give her team a 65-63 lead. Mississippi Valley’s Joncyee Sanders retaliated with a layup with 40 seconds remaining to tie the game. Latia Williams had a chance to give PV the lead but she missed a pull up with 17 seconds remaining. Then she redeemed herself with a steal with 2 seconds left in regulation to send the game into overtime.
Etienne was unstoppable for most of the first half. She started the game off 4-for-6, including 3-for-4 from downtown. She drained a pull-up jumper off of a curl to give the Lady Panthers a 23-14 lead with 9:27 remaining in the first half. Mississippi Valley, however, rallied back and pulled to within three at 28-25 after a corner jumper by Derita Silas with 5:15 left in the game. The Devilettes then completed a run at the end of the half to go into the locker room with a 35-33 lead.
Prairie View A&M reclaimed the lead in the second half after a quick shot by Etienne on their first possession and followed it up with a JaQuandria Williams jumper to go up 38-35 with 18:30 left in the game.
Prairie View A&M started the game off on fire, going 3-for-4 from downtown in the first four minutes take take an early 16-6 lead. Kiara Etienne drained two threes to start the game off, and her supporting cast came through with timely shots and defense.
Etienne had 16 points at the half for Prairie View and was the anchor for the Lady Panthers in a close game. Larissa Scott had seven points and three rebounds for Prairie View A&M in the first 20 minutes.
Prairie View A&M will find out its fate in the NCAA Tournament after watching the NCAA selection show on Monday.
Below is video of the Prairie View post game press conference.