(Montgomery, Ala.) Coming off a 91-79 victory over eighth-seeded Middle Georgia State last night to start the tournament, the top-seeded No. 23 Loyola University New Orleans returned to the Multiplex at the Cramton Bowl on Friday afternoon for a SSAC Championship semifinal showdown against the (RV) University of Mobile.
With a chance to punch a ticket to the SSAC title game on the line, it was no surprise that this game would come down to the wire between these two talented squads.
After exchanging score runs throughout the contest, the Rams found themselves up six, 53-47, with just over five minutes to play in the game. The Wolf Pack quickly answered with three-straight points by Zoie Miller (JR/Frisco, Texas) and a huge triple by Kaila Anthony (FR/Pflugerville, Texas) put the Wolf Pack on top by one with 4:12 remaining. Miller would then knock down a three-pointer and convert a layup to push the Loyola advantage to 59-53 and force a Mobile timeout with 2:16 to go.
SSAC Player of the Year Starla Daggan knocked down two free throws with just over a minutes remaining before Kali Koening connected on a deep triple to put the Rams back on top (60-59) with 37 seconds left in regulation. Following another free throw by Daggan with 14 seconds to play, Loyola called its last timeout of the game and had possession with a chance to advance to the finals in its grasp. On the ensuing possession, a double team on the inbound by Mobile would force a Wolf Pack turnover and give the ball back to the Rams with the team up two (61-59) with under 10 seconds remaining. The fourth-seeded Mobile would close out the game by hitting three free throws to hand Loyola the stunning 64-59 defeat in Montgomery to prevent the Wolf Pack from earning its third-straight conference tournament title.
With the loss, Loyola ends the conference tournament with a 26-6 overall record and 17-3 mark in league play. After receiving an automatic bid to the NAIA Tournament after winning the SSAC Regular Season Title, the Wolf Pack now just have to wait to see who the team will face in the opening round in Billings, Montana.
Anthony (16) and Miller (15) combined to score 31 of the Wolf Pack’s 34 bench points on Friday to end the game as the team’s two leading scorers. Paige Franckiewicz (FR/Slidell, La.) and Temple each tallied eight points in the loss with Temple grabbing a team-high 16 boards. Following Friday’s game, Temple became the first Loyola women’s basketball player ever to record at least 1000 points and 1000 rebounds in a career.
As a unit, Loyola shot 19-of-58 (32.8%) from the floor and 8-of-22 (36.4%) from beyond the arc.
The Rams featured three players in double-figures led by Daggan’s 19 points. Alicia Curry collected 10 points in the game and grabbed a SSAC Tournament record with 21 rebounds in Mobile’s victory.