The Southwestern Oklahoma State University women's basketball team, fighting for a spot atop the Great American Conference standings, faced a tough challenge from visiting Henderson State on Thursday evening (Feb. 21) but managed to hold off the Lady Reddies for a 76-70 victory.
SWOSU grabbed a quick 6-0 lead in the game's opening minutes but Henderson controlled much of the remainder of the period, building a lead as high as eight at 19-11 with 9:02 to play in the period. The senior sisters, MaRiah and SaRaya Oyler, combined for 16 first half points with MaRiah giving SWOSU a 33-32 advantage at the break with a pair of late free throws.
The Lady Reddies continued to test SWOSU in the second half, taking the lead several times in the opening minutes before SWOSU went on top for good on a basket from Sarah Mendoza with 14:31 to play that made it 42-40.
SWOSU continued to grow the lead until the final media timeout when an old-fashioned play from SaRaya Oyler made it 70-58 with 3:45 to play. Henderson State responded with the next nine points in 1:15 to pull within three at 70-67 with 2:30 to play. Mendoza answered the run with a lay in, but HSU closed the gap to two at 72-70 on their next possession.
Henderson State would force a stop on the next SWOSU possession, giving them a chance to tie or take the lead, but an offensive foul gave the ball back to the Lady Dawgs with a two point lead. Mendoza took the ball the length of the floor against HSU's press and scored to give SWOSU a 74-70 lead and Elizabeth Lay added two free throws after a defensive stop to seal the victory at 76-70.
SaRaya Oyler led SWOSU with 20 points with Michelle Fisher added 14 and MaRiah Oyler had 12. Lay was a strong presence for the Lady Dawgs in the post, scoring five points and pulling down 11 rebounds while also sending back four Henderson State shots.
The loss sends Henderson State to 10-13 on the year and 5-12 in the GAC action. The Lady Reddies got 21 points from Destiny Smith and 15 from Krystal Beachum in the losing effort.
Southwestern Oklahoma State improves to 19-5 (14-4 GAC) with the win and they are now on the verge of their second consecutive 20-win season. Their first attempt at that 20th win will come on Saturday at 2 p.m. against Ouachita Baptist.