GARLAND, Texas – When the final buzzer sounded, Prairie View A&M senior forward Latia Williams couldn’t contain her emotions. While her teammates screamed and smiled in celebration of a gritty 62-58 win over No. 1 seeded Texas Southern, she embraced her coach Toyelle Wilson with tears of joy as the Lady Panthers advanced to the SWAC Tournament Championship game for the third season in a row.
Williams had her second-consecutive double-double of the SWAC Tournament with 17 points and 12 rebounds to help give her team the edge. She added four steals in an awe-inspiring game that helped Prairie View A&M improve to 8-0 in SWAC Tournament games under Wilson’s helm. Williams improved her record in the SWAC Tournament as an active player to 11-0.
“This is my last go around,” Williams said. “The first three rings wouldn’t mean anything if I don’t get the fourth one.”
The final minutes were nerve-wrecking for the Lady Panthers. Jeanette Jackson hit back-to-back three pointers in the clutch to give Prairie View A&M a 54-49 lead with 2:45 left in the game. She then countered a Texas Southern basket by hitting the front end of a 1-and-1 with 2:00 left. Texas Southern’s Morgan Simmons made two free throws to cut the Lady Panthers lead to 55-53.
However, Jackson made two more free throws after being fouled off the ball to give her team a 57-53 lead with 1:21 remaining. From that point, Prairie View A&M managed the game and made the key free throws and defensive possessions to send Texas Southern, the No. 1 seed, home packing.
Texas Southern managed to take a slight lead on Prairie View A&M to come out of the half, but the Panthers countered with a 9-2 run that was capped off by a Latia Williams’ jumper with 11:12 left in the game to take a 39-35 lead.
The Lady Panthers traded blows with Texas Southern in the first half, but they managed to stay one step ahead of their opponents in the first half. Led by Kiara Etienne and Latia Williams, the Lady Panthers entered the locker room with a 28-26 lead. Etienne had nine points on 3-for-5 shooting from three-point range in the first half. Williams compiled eight points, five rebounds and three steals in the first 20 minutes. Prairie View A&M had six steals in the first half and forced Texas Southern into 12 turnovers.
Prairie View jumped out to an early 15-5 lead on Texas Southern thanks to efficient play in the offense and pressure defense. Jeanette Jackson hit a three with 14:45 left in the first half to give the Panthers the seven-point advantage. Kiara Etienne followed it up with a three of her own with 13:25 left to take the 10-point lead. The Lady Panthers swarmed Texas Southern on the defensive side of the ball. Texas Southern had six turnovers in the first nine minutes of the game. Etienne finished the game with 12 points and had five steals with four assists to give Prairie View A&M the edge on Friday.
The Lady Panthers have the chance to three-peat as SWAC Tournament Champions and will face Mississippi Valley State in the championship game at noon Saturday in Garland, Texas at the Curtis Culwell Center. Prairie View A&M is seeking to become the first team since Grambling State to win three straight SWAC Tournament Titles.