THIBODAUX – Northwestern State got some clutch shots and made some clutch plays in the final minutes to pull out a 68-64 win at Nicholls on Thursday night.
Among the list of key moments in the final two minutes of a back-and-forth affair was the offensive rebound, put back and drawn foul by Jordan Todd that broke the deadlock and gave the Lady Demons (8-5, 1-1) the late advantage. A defensive stop and patient offense bled the clock down to below 30 seconds and forced the game into one of NSU’s strengths, free throw shooting, that iced the game away.
“That really was a huge play for us,” head coach Anna Nimz said. “There were a couple of opportunities earlier in the game where she got a good look at the rim and passed it back out, so we were excited that when it mattered the most, she was able to spin off her defender and finish at the rim and knock down the free throw.”
The work the Lady Demons put in since Saturday showed itself early on as extra passes and quality passes led to several open looks at the basket.
JaMiya Braxton drained the first triple of the game swinging the ball around the left side and Monette Bolden got a perfectly placed bounce pass from Braxton minutes later for an easy layup that put NSU ahead early.
The Lady Demons built a 13-6 lead through the first seven-plus minutes but Nicholls (3-10, 1-1) finished with a flurry of nine straight points to take the 15-13 edge into the second quarter.
Candice Parramore broke a long scoring drought early in the second and Bolden knocked down a jumper a minute later that tied the game at 17. NSU missed its next five shots from the field despite continuing to make the extra passes and getting good looks at the basket.
Jasmin Dixon ended the streak with an easy bucket on an inbound play sparking a 7-3 run that allowed Parramore to tie the game at 24 after a free throw fully turning the game into a back-and-forth slugfest the rest of the way.
Bolden and the defense were able to give NSU the momentum heading into the half after a steal and a pair of free throws made it a 31-30 Nicholls lead. The Lady Demons clamped down for the final 30 seconds, not allowing the Colonels to get a shot off to extend their slim lead.
The third quarter quickly turned into a free throw shooting contest between the teams as Nicholls committed four fouls in the first two minutes of the half. The teams shot a combined total of 11 free throws in the first half and proceeded to shot 22 in the third quarter alone.
Nicholls won the game within the game going 7-for-10 from the stripe while NSU made 6-of-12. Even the normally automatic Parramore missed four free throws, more than she had the entire season to this point.
One of the few field goals in the quarter fell for the Lady Demons with six seconds left on a pull-up shot from the right side from Jiselle Woodson that gave NSU the 46-44 lead going into the final quarter.
That clutch shot turned out to be just the first of several for the Lady Demons in the final 10 minutes.
Parramore found her way underneath her defender for a layup that gave the Lady Demons the lead again and Bolden floated one into the basket that did the same and Dixon handled a sharp pass from Bolden in the lane for a key basket with 3:36 left that put NSU up by three.
“To get all the different looks we did we had to play more together and I thought they did that,” Nimz said. “They played through one another and made the extra pass. There were a handful of possessions where we maybe didn’t knock it down but it went inside-out and it was good basketball. It was good to see that come back. Really excited about the collective team effort.”
Until Todd’s three-point play, Nicholls was able to find an answer for every NSU score. After the free throw, not even the heroics of reigning Southland Conference Player of the Week Chelsea Cain, who finished with a game-best 28, were enough to keep NSU from the win.
Parramore recorded her third straight 20-point game leading NSU with 21, scoring 11 from the free throw line, with Bolden contributing 16 and Woodson 10. Todd grabbed 10 rebounds for the second time in three games, none bigger than the one with 1:43 left in the fourth quarter.
“Across the board, every girl that played or didn’t play, in my opinion that was our best basketball game,” Nimz said. “Just as far as bench involvement, court awareness and I thought they made the changes from last game to this one so that’s really good improvement for us.”
Photo: Sam Levanthal