WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Lady Toppers survive close call

J. Michael Moore

The Lady Toppers played Diddle Arena ‘Survivor’ Saturday night — without a tribal council or a $1,000,000 purse.

Down by five with 2:13 remaining against North Texas, Western clawed back, winning 89-85 in overtime.

It was about survival against the Lady Eagles.

The Lady Toppers forced overtime, despite shooting 33-percent from the field.

It was about survival when senior forward Shala Reese started the second half after missing the final five minutes of the first 20 minutes with a twisted ankle.

Reese finished with a career-high 31 points, one better than her performance against Denver last Wednesday.

It was about survival when Kristina Covington ran off the court at the beginning of overtime, vomited, and returned to finish the game.

Two other Lady Toppers also fought injury.

Leah Lineberry struggled with the flu while fellow junior Elisha Ford didn’t dress due to bronchitis.

Head coach Mary Taylor Cowles said her team won because of its composure.

“We’re still making mistakes at the defensive end, we’re still making mistakes at the offensive end,” Cowles said. “But our composure about it — we don’t drop our heads about it, we don’t sulk about it for the next three possessions.”

The Lady Toppers started the game on a 6-0 run but fell behind 10-8 by the 16:29 mark. The teams continued to battle for much of the half.

Then fear struck.

Reese, who was well on her way to a first half double-double, was trailing on a fast break with 5:24 remaining. She slowed up suddenly, grabbed her leg, and began wincing in pain.

It looked bad as Reese was helped off the floor.

“I don’t know how it happened,” said Reese, who also finished with 14 rebounds. “I was trailing the play, not even involved, and rolled over some girl’s ankle.”

Reese remained out for the rest of the half, but entered the second 20 minutes with a vengeance.

Her post-move and lay-up with 10 seconds left tied the game at 74 and forced overtime.

Fellow Lady Topper Leslie Logsdon, a junior guard, also got in the action, finishing the game with 29 points — including the last eight points in overtime, bringing Western back from a four point deficit.

Logsdon also tied the school record for three pointers in a game — seven — set by Natalie Powers.

North Texas shot 47 percent from the field and finished with four players in double-digit scoring.

Center Vilma Grismanauskaite ruled the paint, racking up 22 points and six rebounds.

But the Lady Toppers found a way, frustrating the Lady Eagles at crucial moments, sending their visitors quickly to the bus after the game’s final horn.

“They shot the ball well,” Logsdon said. “In the end, we took it at them. We did what we needed to do to win the game. We put all of our injuries and all of our sickness behind us.”

But the talk Saturday night focused on the Lady Toppers’ will and survival.

“We didn’t quit,” Reese said. “We didn’t give up. We hit the big shots, we made some crucial stops and we just kept playing. We always thought we were going to win the game.”

Reach J. Michael Moore at [email protected]