The Lady Eagles were crowned champions of the Lady Eagle Thanksgiving Classic after defeating Mississippi Valley State University in the opening round and Samford University in the championship game.
In the first quarter against MVSU, the Lady Eagles led the Devilettes by a slim margin, 21- 18. Southern Miss shot 55 per- cent from the field, while the Devilettes shot 53 percent.
Mississippi Valley gained the lead early in the second quarter. The two teams battled back- and-forth throughout the quarter, but two Jayla King free throws with seconds left gave the Lady Eagles a 31-29 lead at halftime. The Lady Eagles were outscored in the quarter, 11-10.
The Lady Eagles have mentioned they were a second half team since the start of the season.
“We want that third quarter to be the identity of our team,” said head coach Joye Lee-McNelis.
The Lady Eagles stretched their lead after the break. The Lady Eagles outscored the Devilettes 25-10 in the third quarter with 16 points in the paint.
The Lady Eagles also had 15 points off of turnovers, which gave them a 56-39 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
“It was spurred by several players who got some jumps and trap action which that kind of gave us some energy,” Lee- McNelis said.
The Devilettes did not go down without a fight, as they dominated the Lady Eagles in the paint during the fourth quar- ter, outscoring the Lady Eagles 12-2. Despite being outscored in the paint and in the quarter, 16-15, the Lady Eagles still held a comfortable lead off of their third quarter.
King led the team with 27 points. Lashyra Cotton shot 70 percent from the field and add- ed 14 points. Shayla King led the Lady Eagles in rebounds with eight.
The Lady Eagles’ backcourt outside of Brittanny Dinkins and King, struggled. Keri Jewett- Giles, Tajanay Veiga and Jeron- tay Clemons combined for seven points, all scored by Clemons.
Samford defeated Nicholls State to advance to the championship game to face the Lady Eagles.
Against Samford, the Lady Eagles started off dominant on the defensive side of the floor, forcing the Bulldogs to shoot 33 percent in the first half.
The Bulldogs took the lead briefly in the first quarter, but the Lady Eagles quickly regained the advantage, outscoring Samford 11-10 in the first ten minutes. Southern Miss extended their lead in second quarter and out- scored the Bulldogs 20-16. The Lady Eagles started an 8-2 run to start the quarter in taking a 19-12 lead. The Lady Eagles eventually led by as many as eight in the quarter and led 31- 26 at the half.
Southern Miss was leading 36- 28, when the Bulldogs scored six straight points to cut the lead to 36-34. The teams traded points before Caitlin Jenkins and Jewett-Giles hit back-to-back shots. Samford closed out the final two minutes with a 6-4 run and out- scored the Lady Eagles 16-15 in the third quarter, which shrank the Southern Miss lead to 46-42 by the end of the third quarter.
The Lady Eagles scored six straight points to start the final quarter, taking a double-digit lead for the first time in the game. The Lady Eagles went cold from the field and did not score a field goal for the remainder of the quarter.
But Samford was unable to capitalize on the Lady Eagles’ struggles. The Bulldogs had their own shooting woes. Sam- ford cut the lead to 52-47, but the game was won from the line as Jewett-Giles connected on 4-of-6 from the line in the final seconds of the game, giving the Lady Eagles the 56-48 victory.
Jenkins quietly registered a double-double, as she was able to score a team-high 11 points and snag 11 rebounds.
Nicholls State defeated Mississippi Valley 63-54 in the consolation game. King was named the tournament’s MVP. Cotton was named to the all-tournament team
The Lady Eagles return to the court on Dec. 1, when they take on Tennessee Tech in Cookeville, Tennessee, at 6 p.m.