Unleashing a 26-8 run in the first 10 minutes of the second half, the 24th ranked Northeastern A&M Lady Norse gained a 79-64 victory Monday night over the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith Lady Lions in the NEO Fieldhouse.
While reaching the 20th-win plateau for the ninth consecutive season and the second straight under coach Jim Rowland, the Lady Norse are 20-6 on the year.
NEO is second in the Eastern Division of the Bi-State Athletic Conference with a 5-2 mark.
The Lady Norse conclude the regular season on Thursday by hosting arch-rival Connors State College for sophomore night at 6 p.m.
The Cowgirls upset the Lady Norse by a 69-64 margin on Feb. 12 in Warner.
Coach Louis Whorton's three-time Region II Champion Lady Lions lead the Bi-State East with a 6-1 record.
The Lady Lions carry 16-11 season mark into Thursday's season finale in Wilburton against Eastern State College.
“Our defense has been playing well all year long, Rowland said. “We've been putting ourselves in situations where we stay in ball games and our offense has been coming along.
“Down at their place, they shot 41 free throws and made 23 of them which won the game for them, Rowland said. “We knew if we kept them off the line that much, then we would have a chance in the end.
During the first half, the Lady Lions made 10 of 12 free throw attempts that allowed them to build a 23-17 lead midway through the first 20 minutes.
Five points each by Chanlee Bottoms and Meisha Blackshear along with four each by Katorra Lewis and Elisha Shoate and three points by Hannah Lark ignited the UAFS run.
A 3-point field goal by Brittni Allen, along with six straight points by Shay Holmes, rallied the Lady Norse to a 28-26 deficit with 6:06 until halftime.
Holmes continued her solid play inside the paint with six more points and Whitney Conerly added a driving layup, along with a putback by Nathalia Araujo, to propel the Lady Norse to a 36-33 lead with 1:45 before intermission.
Two free throws each by Holmes and Conerly enabled the Lady Norse to maintain a 40-37 margin at half.
“We were kind of lethargic on offense in the first half, Rowland said. “But Sequoria (Grady) and Autumn (Thompson) turned the game around defensively. They brought an enthusiasm that carried over to our offense.
Six straight points by Regiane “Nani Araujo, along with a layup by Bruna Duarte, produced a 48-37 Lady Norse cushion in the first two minutes of the second half.
After a field goal by UAFS' Blackshear, consecutive baskets by Conerly, Duarte and Grady increased the NEO lead to 54-39 at the 14:39 juncture.
Over the next six minutes, the Lady Norse outscored the Lady Lions 12-4 to build a 66-45 lead.
Seven points by Conerly, along with a 3-pointer by Allen and a putback by Grady, fueled NEO's outburst.
Trailing 67 to 47, the Lady Lions received field goals by Lark, Blackshear, Candice Nelson and Lewis to trim the margin to 67-55 with 7:26 remaining in the game.
Four points each by Grady and Duarte along with field goals by Nani Araujo and Holmes closed out NEO's scoring in the final six minutes.
Holmes scored 17 total points to lead all scorers while Regiane Araujo contributed 16, Conerly 14 and Duarte 12 for the Lady Norse.
NEO hit 28 of 65 (43 percent) from the field, including 3 of 12 from 3-point range, and 20 of 26 (77 percent) at the free throw line.
Lewis led the Lady Lions with 16 points while Blackshear scored 15, Lark 13 and Bottoms 10.
The Lady Lions sank 22 of 58 (38 percent) field goal attempts, including 3 of 16 from the 3-point area. UAFS hit 17 of 25 (68 percent) at the line.
Conerly grabbed 13 rebounds as the Lady Norse maintained an overwhelming 53-29 advantage in rebounding. Blackshear collected 10 rebounds for the Lady Lions.
Northeastern A&M 79,
Arkansas-Fort Smith 64
UAFS - Lewis 6-19 3-4 16, Blackshear 6-14 2-3 15, Lark 6-6 1-2 13, Bottoms 2-5 5-7 10, Watkins 1-4 2-2 4, Shoate 0-5 4-4 4, Nelson 1-3 0-3 2, Reece 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 22-58 17-25 64.
Northeastern A&M - Holmes 5-12 7-9 17, R. Araujo 6-10 4-4 16, Conerly 6-16 2-2 14, Duarte 4-9 4-7 12, Grady 2-8 3-4 7, Allen 2-4 0-0 6, Haley 1-2 0-0 3, Thompson 1-3 0-0 2, N. Araujo 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 28-65 20-26 79.
Halftime - NEO 40, UAFS 37. 3-point goals - UAFS 3-16 (Bottoms 1-4, Lewis 1-5, Blackshear 1-2, Shoate 0-4, Watkins 0-1), NEO 3-12 (Allen 2-4, Haley 1-2, Holmes 0-3, Thompson 0-1, Duarte 0-1, Conerly 0-1). Total fouls - UAFS 19, NEO 18. Rebounds - UAFS 29 (Blackshear 10), NEO 53 (Conerly 13). Assists - UAFS 9 (Blackshear 6), NEO 11 (Duarte 6). Steals - UAFS 7 (Bottoms 2, Shoate 2), NEO 9 (Conerly 3). Blocked shots - UAFS 1 (Lewis), NEO 2 (Grady, Holmes). Turnovers - UAFS 13, NEO 16. Fouled out - none.