The Southwestern Oklahoma State University women's basketball team led wire-to-wire in their opening game of the Great American Conference tournament, a 69-59 victory over No. 7 seeded Henderson State. The victory puts SWOSU into the semifinals of the tournament where they will face Harding, a winner over SEOSU earlier on Thursday.
First Team All-GAC selection Michelle Fisher paced the Lady Bulldogs, scoring 12 points in the first half to help SWOSU build a 34-24 lead at the break after leading by as many as 13 in the opening stanza. Fisher stayed in attack mode during the second half and converted several tough driving baskets and finished with 26 points on 9-of-19 shooting from the field while attempting just three three-point attempts, connecting on one.
Henderson State had chances to close the gap in the second half, cutting their deficit to five early in the half at 35-30. Fisher and TaNita Dewberry sparked a 9-2 run to get SWOSU back on top by 12 at 44-32, giving the Bulldogs a comfortable margin for most of the second half.
The Lady Reddies full-court pressure defense and work on the glass never allowed SWOSU to pull away in the game until late and Henderson State got as close as six at 51-45 with just over nine minutes to play in the game. Fisher and Elizabeth Lay combined to score the next six points for SWOSU to get the lead back up into double figures at 55-45 with 8:26 to play.
SWOSU still struggled to keep Henderson State off the backboards down the stretch, but the Lady Reddies were unable to capitalize on their multiple shots at the basket on several possessions. HSU's last push got them within seven at 64-57 with 1:57 to play, but Fisher answered it with a bucket of her own and SWOSU hit three-of-four free throws in the final minute of the game to seal the victory at 69-59.
The win improves SWOSU to 22-5 on the year and keeps alive their push for a second consecutive Great American Conference Tournament Championship along with a chance to advance to the NCAA Division II Tournament. The Lady Bulldogs have Friday off while the men take to the court for their opening round games and they will face Harding on Saturday at noon in Bartlesville.