Northwestern State used poise, clutch shots and a strong defensive second half to come away with a 65-60 win against Champion Christian on Sunday afternoon.
After eight first-half 3s found the bottom of the net for Champion Christian, the Lady Demons (3-4) held the Tigers to just one in the second half, while getting some key shots of their own to fall in the win.
“We showed a lot of resiliency and poise down the stretch,” head coach Anna Nimz said. “Winning a close game this early in the season, no matter who the opponent is, the upside of that is really great. I told them after the game I never once thought they were out. Their overall defensive pride came back big for us in the second half.”
Candice Parramore made one of her three triples in the game early in the fourth quarter that all but erased the Tigers lead that was as much as 10 in the game. Joelle Johnson put the Demons ahead on a jumper two possessions later, but it wasn’t until Shelby Rayner’s pull-up from the right elbow that the Demons took the lead for good with 1:49 left in the game.
The 4-for-6 shooting from the field in the final four minutes was the best stretch of the game for the Demons at the time when they needed it most. It was enough to compliment the lock down performance on the defensive end allowing for the come-from-behind win.
The Tigers made just one 3-pointer in the second half and were held 0-for-8 in the fourth quarter from beyond the arc thanks to the defensive ball pressure at on the perimeter.
“The defensive switches that we made moving Jiselle (Woodson) and Candice to the top really made a huge difference,” Rayner said. “Having them up there putting pressure on the ball was really effective in the second half.”
NSU forced 10 second-half turnovers as well that led directly to 13 points.
Johnson played a key role in the offensively for NSU in the second half, using her size and athleticism near the free-throw line to open things up on the floor.
She gave NSU the lead twice from the high post in the fourth quarter and finished with an NSU-best 10 points, six coming in the second half.
“Joe was a great high-post presence for us today,” Nimz said. “It’s an easy game when we allow ourselves to slow down for a second and are willing to play the small game. Get it into the high post and get a two-foot bucket instead of living and dying by the 3-point line. It takes the pressure off your back for when the ball does come back outside.”
She was one of three players to score in double figures in the game for the Demons along with Parramore’s 12 and Rayner’s 20. Both Parramore and Rayner added double-digit rebounds to earn their first double-doubles of the season.
“I think we really had a poised group of five out on the floor down the stretch,” Rayner said. “None of us were greedy with the ball, moving it around, using the clock and Joe was a huge factor in the middle for us.”