LCU edge out Lady Buffs in regional final

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PHOTO CREDIT - JOHN MOORE FOR AMARILLO GLOBE-NEWS

PHOTO CREDIT - JOHN MOORE FOR AMARILLO GLOBE-NEWS

PHOTO CREDIT - JOHN MOORE FOR AMARILLO GLOBE-NEWS

Nick Alvarado, Editor-in-Chief

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Fans would call Monday night a ‘celebration of West Texas basketball.’

For the Lady Buffs, it would not be so much of a celebration at the Rip Griffin Center.

Despite facing a seven-point deficit at the halftime break, and the tough defense that came from the LCU Lady Chaps (31-1), the West Texas A&M Lady Buffs fought back, but fell in the south central regional final, 55-53, ending their season.

“I think it was a really good game,” senior Madison Parker said. “We were always ready for the battle and there was not a point in the game where I didn’t think we would walk away with a win. I believed in this team. Ultimately, LCU had the answer.”

“I felt like we battled hard tonight until the final second,” Senior Sydney Walton said. “I’m proud of our team and we come a long way with a few bumps in the road. I’m proud of this program.”

For the Lady Buffs, the season ends at 29-5, where they have made the regional final in their last two appearances and earned a conference tournament title, which is the first under women’s coach Kristen Mattio.

As for the Lady Chaps, the win marks 50 straight at home, and secures a second trip to the Elite Eight in three years.

The Lady Buffs faced a seven-point deficit at the halftime break, which was the largest lead at the time and stormed back to tie the game off a basket from sophomore guard Lexy Hightower, who finished with 12 points, collected two rebounds and shot 50 percent from the floor.

The Lady Chaps had their response with Tess Bruffey with a jumper, who tallied a game-high 17 points, grabbing 13 rebounds and finished with 10 assists in a triple-double effort on the night.

The Lady Buff fight did not die, and it showed as Tyesha Taylor hit a jumper in the 1:02 mark of the third quarter to knot the game back up at 38.

“In the second half, we were able to get Tyesha Taylor going a little bit,” Mattio said. “That gave us a little bit of a presence in the paint but besides that, a little credit goes to LCU, that length bothered us.”

In a back-and-forth game in the winding stages of the third quarter, former Wall standout Maddi Chitsey had a layup of her own to take back the lead and ended the action in the third quarter with LCU ahead, 40-38.

Caitlyn Cunyus, a Canyon native, is no stranger in big stages, winning state titles at Canyon High School. As a Lady Chap, she sparked momentum to open the fourth quarter with a big three as the Lady Chaps pulled to a five-point lead.

WT struggled as they faced a drought that lasted 2:37 in the fourth quarter that was abysmal in the loss. Tiana Parker ended that drought with a layup, cutting the LCU lead down to three with 6:01 left in the quarter.

Since that Cunyus three, it was clear that the Lady Chaps were building off the momentum with each possession. The momentum continued to build as Chitsey hit a three that extended the LCU lead to 50-43, forcing the Lady Buffs to call timeout at the 4:26 mark.

In a scoring drought that lasted 2:36 in the mid-stages of the fourth quarter, the Lady Buffs ended the drought for both teams as Deleyah Harris tacked on a free throw. The field goal drought ended with a layup by Olivia Robertson, bringing the LCU to 52-44 with 1:42 left in the quarter.

The Lady Buffs had their response as Lexy Hightower drained a three that received a kiss from the glass to cut the LCU lead to 54-50 and was key in attempt to steal a win at the tough Rip Griffin Center.

With fouls to give, Bruffey was fouled and went one-for-two for the line that would play a key role as the momentum slowly crept the Lady Buff’s way.

Madison Parker had a three of her own with seven ticks left on the clock as the LCU lead was soon cut to 55-53.

LCU returned to their line in what was their final possession as Maddi Chitsey also went one-for-two, sealing the win for the Lady Chaps.

“The credit goes to all of these players that come in and do their best every day,” Mattio said.  “Every game is treated like a national championship game. We try to practice that way too. If you have that mentality, you can always do something special with your season, but you also have to have great leadership. Our three seniors have been phenomenal.”

The Lady Chaps will advance to the elite eight of division two in Sioux Falls, S.D., with play starting next Monday.

 

LUBBOCK CHRISTIAN 56, WEST TEXAS A&M 53

West Texas A&M      13      10      15      15      —           53

Lubbock Christian    16      14      10      16      —           56

 

LEADING SCORERS: L – Bruffey 17, Chitsey 12, Gaddis 9; W – Hightower 12, Walton 12, Taylor 10

 

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