A last-second shot and another stop at the buzzer propelled Northwestern State to a thrilling 54-52 win against Lamar on Saturday. It was the first home win against the Cardinals since 2008.
Tied at 52 and the clock ticking down below 10 seconds, the ball and the game were placed into the hands of Jiselle Woodson. The junior guard took her defender off the dribble on the isolation play, cutting all the way to the basket for the go-ahead layup with 6.5 seconds left on the clock.
“The word is exhilarating,” Woodson said. “That’s the best way I can describe it. Coach trusted me, my team trusted me and that’s what mattered coming down to those last couple of seconds.
“They wanted the ball in my hand and its crazy to experience that growth in my game. Last year I probably wouldn’t have been comfortable in that situation. Now a year later all that growth I’m thankful to my teammates and coaches that all trust me in that spot to get a clutch bucket that we needed.”
The first game-winning kind of shot of her career was protected in the final seconds by another stout defensive performance.
Reminiscent of the win two weeks prior against McNeese that required a defensive stop at the buzzer, the Lady Demons (9-10, 5-4) used a combination of basketball I.Q. and no-give persistence to close the game.
With a foul to give after the Woodson layup, the Demons gambled for a steal on the initial inbound, nearly seeing Candice Parramore pick the pocket for a runout the other way, but were called for a foul allowing three seconds to tick away. On the ensuing inbound, Joelle Johnson did what her and Jasmin Dixon had been doing all night on the talented post players for the Cardinals: deny the easy entry pass.
Johnson tipped the ball away long enough for the shot to come after the final buzzer that hit the bottom of the rim and bounced to the floor.
“We talk a lot about finding that growth and mental maturity and I think they’re starting to find it and believe in themselves,” Nimz said. “That the number one thing. You have to believe in yourself before us telling you actually matters. Down the stretch they believed that they could.”
The final seconds were the most thrilling of the game, but the opening 10 minutes provided enough spark for the Demons to hold on at the end.
Parramore picked up where she left off following Thursday’s career scoring night with a 3-pointer from the right corner 10 second into the game. She ripped the net on another triple two possession later as part of her 13 first-quarter points.
Sharna Ayres joined the 3-point affair right after Parramore to make two more as NSU started 4-for-4 from beyond the arc in the game. The duo accounted for all 21 points in the first quarter and led Lamar by nine heading into the second.
“When we can start quick like that and take the air out of the other team like they did today then that’s huge,” Nimz said. “It really turned out to be big today because we had the lull there in the fourth so without that made the start that much more important. We drew up a defensive tip, Jasmin got it and it was a great way to start the game.”
The Cardinals were able to cut into the lead throughout the second quarter by getting production from their post players Akasha Davis and Emme Imevbore. A late scoreless stretch for the Demons allowed the bigs to cut the lead down to five by the half 29-24.
Like she did in the game on Thursday against HCU, Johnson carried the NSU offense through the third quarter. Nine straight points, using her ability to shoot from the perimeter kept the Demons in the lead as Lamar found a moment of consistency scoring the basketball.
The offense from Johnson allowed the defense to resettle itself to two turnovers and three missed shots late in the third opening the door for Parramore to stretch the lead back to eight on another 3-pointer. She beat the third quarter buzzer with her fourth of the day giving NSU the 47-40 lead after three.
“I’m feeling pretty good right now out there,” Parramore said about her confidence on the offensive side. “But I wouldn’t be there without my teammates constantly in my ear, encouraging me and hyping me up. Between them and the coaches my confidence just keeps building each game.”
NSU held on for the win despite a lengthy scoreless stretch to start the fourth quarter, seeing the defense once again step up and get the job done.
“Everybody is pouring in and buying in to what we’re doing,” Woodson said. “We’re right there. Everybody has each other’s back. That’s what we’ve been wanting and working towards and it’s finally coming together. There’s still little pieces we can work on but the buy in is there.”
Parramore finished with her second straight 20-point game to lead all scorers, with Ayres and Woodson both reaching double digits as well. Ayres and Alecia Whyte led the team with eight rebounds each.