JONESBORO, Ark. – A game that was a week in the making came to fruition for Northwestern State on Thursday night in an 80-76 win at Arkansas State to close a week-long road trip.
“What’s fun to see is how we were able to put four quarters together tonight,” head coach Anna Nimz said. “It was exciting to see that, it was exciting to see the maturity on the court and it’s really great having a grad transfer that understands the game and the feel of it sometimes.
“But every single kid, whether they played or didn’t play impacted the game. The genuine growth in these past three games is really exciting and not just in the win-loss category but the contribution of different players when we needed it.”
The Lady Demons (4-3) had four players score 13 or more points in the game with several more finding hot streaks to contribute to the best shooting performance of the year from the floor and from beyond the arc.
After two tremendous starts for NSU in the previous two games, it was Arkansas State (4-5) that came out on fire in the first quarter making six of the first nine shots to take a 15-6 lead. The Lady Demons weathered the early storm and after a timeout at the 3:53 mark, turned the tables on the Red Wolves.
One of the hottest shooters for the Lady Demons, Jiselle Woodson, drilled a 3-pointer from the wing out of the break and immediately took one of her five charges in the game on the ensuing defensive possession to spark a run.
NSU ended the first with an 8-0 run and after just one more field goal from the home team, held ASU scoreless across the final three minutes, forcing a pair of turnovers along the way, to make it a 26-21 game, erasing the 13-point lead ASU right before the timeout.
NSU carried its hot shooting into the second quarter staring the period 4-for-9 from the field, but ASU was equal to the task converting the exact same rate. JaMiya Braxton drained a pair of 3s in just over a minute to officially erase the ASU lead and tie the game at 32 with 5:25 to go.
Both teams finished the half with a flurry and each time ASU made a couple of shots in a row, NSU answered. Woodson, Monette Bolden and Karmelah Dean all had game-tying shots in the final three minutes of the half for the Lady Demons. Dean capped the exciting first 20 minutes with a left-handed driving layup as the buzzer sounded to knot the game at 45 going into the break.
“I think everybody was on fire tonight,” Woodson said who finished the game with a team-leading 18 points off the bench on a 4-for-6 effort from beyond the arc. “Everybody contributed and played a huge role in the win tonight and that’s really important. We had some hot shooters in the paint, made some big layups and the 3-pointers from everyone, it was really well played.”
It was Candice Parramore’s turn in the third quarter to come up with clutch shots for the Lady Demons. In the span of a minute, the senior transfer knocked down three straight 3-pointers that gave NSU its first lead and a four-point lead (54-50) four minutes into the second half.
The Red Wolves answered with a 6-0 run to move back ahead, but Bolden tied the game at 56 to end the small run and Woodson hit a jumper a minute later to answer another ASU score. A late bucket and free throw for the Wolves gave them the slim 61-60 lead going into the final frame.
Eight straight points from Dean in the fourth quarter were some of the most needed and clutch of the night for the Lady Demons. Her 3-pointer with 6:06 left, the only make of her three attempts of the game, cut the ASU lead down to one and an and-1 play 90 seconds later put NSU up 70-68. Each of her eight points in the run answered ASU points from the possession before.
Up by one (73-72) with 1:41 left in the game, Woodson took her final charge of the night to get the ball back into the hands of Bolden and the offense. With the shooter’s bounce, Bolden got the bucket as the shot clock expired that put the Demons ahead by three and forced ASU into the foul game to extend the time.
NSU made 5-of-6 from the stripe in the final 26 seconds while ASU missed both shots from the line that would have tied the game with just over a second to go.
“We wanted it more,” Woodson said. “You could tell that the pressure was getting to them and defense is what we’re about, it’s what we thrive on and really work on and put a lot of effort into in practice. It really paid off tonight.”
The Lady Demons shot 46 percent from the field in the game and went 11-for-22 from beyond the arc, their best numbers this season.
Bolden matched a career high with 17 points, adding eight rebounds and a pair of assists in her second straight 40-minute effort. Dean had career high points (17) and rebounds (5) and Parramore finished with 13 behind her 3-for-4 effort from deep in the third quarter. Jordan Todd reached double figures with 10 rebounds.
“I think this is the catalyst and just the beginning,” Nimz said. “They’re buying in to one another and we still have some tools that haven’t had their “ah-ha” moment yet. We have some players that may still be playing a little bit reserved, but when everybody breaks out, this group is special.”
The Lady Demons return to action next Saturday, Dec. 11 at Mississippi Valley State.
Photo Credit: Chris Reich, NSU Photographic Services