NATCHITOCHES – The Northwestern State women’s basketball team wanted badly to maintain their strong play at home as a way to honor departing seniors Shahd Abboud and Beatrice Attura on Saturday afternoon.
Facing Central Arkansas for the second time this season, the Lady Demons put together a better all-around effort than they did in Conway in January. However, they still were unable to solve the Sugar Bears’ physical defense, falling 62-51 in the regular-season finale.
“You’ve got to give UCA a lot of credit,” first-year head coach Jordan Dupuy said. “They hang their hat on their defense and being physically tough. Against them it’s very difficult to find open shots.”
The Lady Demons (13-16, 7-11 Southland Conference) entered the game as the conference’s third-best shooting team in conference games, hitting 45.5 percent of their shots. UCA’s league-leading scoring and shooting defense made it tough for Northwestern State, who enjoyed a 61.2-percent shooting day in its last home game, a 95-93 win against New Orleans a week ago.
The Sugar Bears (24-4, 16-2) held Northwestern State to a 6-for-19 first-half shooting performance to built an eight-point halftime lead then let their defense take care of the rest.
Central Arkansas built a 14-point lead on a jumper by Taylor Baudoin (team-high 23 points) with 8:00 to play in the third quarter, and it appeared the Sugar Bears were headed to another comfortable victory against the Lady Demons.
Attura had other ideas for her Senior Day script. She scored six straight points, sparking the Lady Demons to life.
Attura opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer that cut the UCA lead to 48-39 for the Lady Demons’ first single-digit deficit in almost 10 minutes of play.
Sophomore post Cheyenne Brown then did her part to pull the Lady Demons within six with 4:40 to play, hitting a pair of free throws. The Sugar Bears responded with a 5-0 spurt started by a wide-open 3-pointer from Maggie Proffitt (20 points).
The Lady Demons pulled back within single digits with 2:17 to play thanks to back-to-back buckets from Brown and Attura but did not hit another basket the rest of the way.
“Bea did some good things, and Cheyenne did some good things,” Dupuy said. “We couldn’t get our transition game started, and that all goes back to UCA and how they play.”
Attura finished with a game-high 24 points in her home finale, setting NSU’ single-season 3-point record in the process. Attura went 4-for-11 from beyond the arc, giving her 87 made 3-pointers this season, surpassing former teammate Janelle Perez’ mark of 84 set in 2015-16.
Brown added 18, extending her career-long streak of double-figure scoring games to
Despite losing their final two games of the regular season, the Lady Demons are headed to the Southland Conference Tournament for the fifth straight season.
NSU finished in a three-way tie with Incarnate Word and Nicholls and will hold the eighth seed in next week’s event in Katy, Texas. The Lady Demons will open tournament play at 11 a.m. Thursday against fifth-seeded Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
“(Abboud and Attura) have been great representatives of what it means to be a student-athlete by the way they carry themselves on and off the floor, in the community and in the classroom,” Dupuy said. “It’s been a blessing to coach them. We wish we could have had a different result on Senior Day, but we still have basketball to play. Hopefully, we can go out with a bang.”