Sam Houston guard Mikayla Woods knew the Bearkats were out of timeouts. So, when Woods pulled down a rebound off a missed free throw with seven seconds remaining, the redshirt sophomore guard did exactly what her coach said to do.
“She came over and asked me what to do,” Sam Houston head coach Ravon Justice said. “I told her that we needed to get the ball up the floor as quickly as possible.”
Woods did just that and then some.
Off the rebound, Woods drove the length of the floor, not settling for an outside shot, instead driving to the basket. The layup was good and the foul was called.
Woods sank the free throw with two seconds to play to lead Sam Houston to an 82-81 win over ACU in the first round of the WAC Tournament on Monday afternoon.
“You just got to play for 40 minutes,” Justice said. “When you do it and you do it right way, sometimes the results come out in your favor.”
When Mikayla Woods hit the go-ahead free throw, it was just the second lead of the game for the Bearkats. In fact, Sam Houston led for all of 21 seconds on Monday afternoon at Michelob Ultra Arena.
It was enough.
However, the win came with some dramatics. Maleeah Langstaff and Madi Miller did all they could to send the Wildcats to the second round. Any time Sam Houston got within two or three, Langstaff or Miller hit a big shot. Other times it was Addison Martin or Aspen Thornton knocking down a shot.
Thornton’s 3-pointer with 5:45 to play gave ACU its largest lead at 72-57. It came after Sam Houston forward Madelyn Batista missed layups on three straight Bearkat possessions.
Unfortunately for the Wildcats, that was the moment Sam Houston caught fire from the perimeter. First, it was Tierney Coleman hitting a corner 3-pointer in transition that cut the deficit to 12. After a free throw, Mikayla Eddins made it a 10-point game with her first 3-pointer of the game. It was part of an 8-0 run by Eddins.
On the following Bearkat possession, Eddins hit a driving layup. Eddins then cut the deficit to five with another 3-pointer.
All of a sudden, with 2:12 to play, we had a ball game.
As it had done throughout most of the game, ACU responded. Aspen Thornton hit a jumper in the paint to push the lead back to seven with 1:52 to play.
Things continued to go back and forth until Addison Martin’s bucket with 51 seconds left gave ACU a 78-73 lead.
That’s when Mikayla Woods decided to go off.
Woods knocked down 3-pointers on the next two Sam Houston possessions to cut the deficit to one with 16 seconds to play.
After a pair of timeouts by each team, things got crazy. ACU nearly turned the ball over on the inbounds play. However, the ball founds its way into the hands of Madi Miller.
The Bearkats were forced to foul, sending Miller to the line for a pair of free throws with ACU leading 80-79.
Miller hit the first but missed the second.
With no timeouts remaining, Woods had a choice to make: rush down the floor and settle for a 3-point attempt or attack.
Woods chose the latter and it worked out. The driving layup was good and Woods also drew the foul with two seconds remaining. After not getting over the hump for most of Monday’s contest, Woods decided to change the narrative.
The free throw was good and for the first time since it was 3-2 in the first quarter, Sam Houston held a lead.
“I actually heard Tierney (Coleman) in the corner calling for the ball,” Woods said. “But it was just one-on-one with me and the girl in the paint. And I’m more comfortable getting downhill so I just took it all the way and had good results.”
Off the made free throw, Aspen Thornton’s shot was just strong and Sam Houston was able to survive and advance.
“This was just devastating,” ACU head coach Julie Goodenough said. “What a devastating way to lose a ball game. I felt like we were in control pretty much the whole game. Obviously, Sam Houston got some momentum in the fourth quarter…I’m kind of having a hard time collecting my thoughts.”
Mikayla Woods finished with a team-high 18 points. Tierney Coleman had 17 points. Madelyn Batista and Mikayla Eddins each had 12 points and Kaylee Jefferson had 10 points. The Bearkats were 7-11 from 3-point land in the fourth quarter. In fact, going into the fourth quarter, Sam Houston was just 5-21 from 3-point range.
Maleeah Langstaff finished with a game-high 26 points for the Wildcats. Madi Miller had 18 points and eight rebounds in her final game in an ACU uniform. Aspen Thornton was also in double figures for the Wildcats with 13.
The Bearkats advance to face top-seed SFA on Wednesday afternoon at the Orleans Arena.
ACU finishes its season 15-15 overall and 9-9 in WAC play.