NSU Lady Demons fall in hard-fought battle with Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders

College Basketball
Published: Dec. 30, 2022 at 10:08 PM CST
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NATCHITOCHES, La. (KALB) - Northwestern State pulled within striking distance of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi late in the fourth quarter but was unable to produce the needed shot in a 65-50 conference-opening loss Friday, Dec. 30.

Shelby Rayner and Jiselle Woodson each made three-pointers in the fourth quarter, Rayner with less than six minutes to go and Woodson with two minutes to go, which cut the lead down to seven points. But each time the buckets were answered on the other end by the Islanders (6-6, 1-0), and the Lady Demons (4-7, 0-1) failed to convert on their next turn with the ball.

Eight free throws in the final two minutes of the game for Corpus created the deceiving final 15-point margin of victory.

“We showed a lot of resiliency today,” head coach Anna Nimz said. “We had a tough week and fought through some adversity and today could have definitely been a different outcome. I thought the whole game, not just down the stretch, we could have thrown in the towel when things didn’t go our way. We played an eight-point game with one of the best teams in the conference. So I told them after, if that doesn’t get them to believe they can be good, nothing can.”

An early 6-0 run and a finishing 7-0 run for the Islanders opened and closed the first quarter of Friday’s Southland Conference opening game, but the preseason favorites were up 16-9 heading into the second quarter.

The 7-0 turned into a longer 16-0 scoreless stretch for the Lady Demons that spanned more than seven minutes, giving Corpus its largest lead of the game to that point at 24-9.

Rayner worked her way to the basket for a layup to get the Demons back on the board, sparking a quick 10-point burst for NSU, where Rayner netted seven of her 15 first-half points in the span of just over a minute.

The burst pulled NSU within eight at 27-19 with just over four minutes left in the half. After a couple of stops on the defensive end, Rayner drilled another three from the corner to pull the Demons within two possessions (30-24) with less than two minutes remaining in the half.

Seven points for the Islanders in the final 90 seconds and only two for the Demons created the 37-26 margin at the half.

NSU had a mirror finish to the third quarter that AMCC did in the second, with a closing 7-2 stretch across the final three minutes of the quarter.

Sharna Ayres made the final two of her four free throws in the game and rattled home a three-pointer on the next possession to start the run. She scored eight of her 10 points in the second half for her fourth straight double-figure scoring outing. With her team-best 11 rebounds, she turned in the first double-double of her career.

“I truly believe that and tell myself that I need to do this for my team,” Ayres said about her shooting and recent scoring. “But I think it’s just a confidence thing in myself more than anything else. And getting in the gym after practice helps too.”

“It comes down to true belief,” Nimz added about Ayres. “We tell her, and all of them every single day, how much we believe in them and their abilities, but it’s not until they believe it themselves do you truly get to see it on the court. Sharna is a phenomenal basketball player and a great shooter, but she’s done a great job of training her mind and believing in herself the way we do.”

Rayner led all scorers with 20 points, her second 20-point game at NSU, going 8-for-16 from the field and 4-for-8 from beyond the arc. Ayres was the only other Demon to reach double figures. Her 11 rebounds were also a career-high.

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