With the emotion of sophomore night in the air, the Southwest Mississippi Community College women used that as motivation to close out the regular season on a high note.
And they did just that, defeating rival Co-Lin 69-58 Monday evening.
“We had some foul trouble and we needed some people to step up and I thought that they did,” SMCC head coach Brent Harris said.
“Shylia McGee was awfully good. Her energy was off the charts and this meant something to her with it being sophomore night.
McGee scored a game-high 25 points for the Bears (17-9, 9-5), including 14 in the second half. After the game, she gave credit to her coach.
“It was Coach Harris, it was all Coach Harris,” she said. “He put me in different positions and it feels like it made me better. It makes me even better than I already am.”
SMCC got off to a bit of a slow start, with Co-Lin using its size and aggressiveness to get six quick points in the paint.
Trailing 8-4 at about the 5:50 mark, the Bears got into rhythm with Mikayla Etienne nailing a 3-pointer. McGee then quickly gave SMCC possession again with a steal before finishing off a fast break with a layup.
That was immediately followed up with a 3-pointer by Sydni Tangle on the ensuing possession. When the dust settled, the Bears enjoyed their first lead at 11-8.
“We got off to a slow start so once we got back-to-back baskets it really pumped up our energy and got us going,” Tangle said. “It pretty much got us started on the offensive end.”
For the remainder of the quarter, both teams continued to battle back and forth before the Wolves (5-7, 5-7) took a 20-17 lead at the end of the first quarter following a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Jana Case.
Early in the second quarter, Tangle scored a pair of a short-range jumpers with the latter giving the Bears a 25-21 advantage.
McGee later followed suit with a make to keep SMCC up by four at 27-23. But Co-Lin got two 3-pointers to jump ahead by two.
Shortly afterward, McGee converted a three-point play giving the Bears the lead once again before following that up with another basket, making the score 32-29 in favor of the hosts. SMCC would not relinquish the lead for the remainder of the game.
In the third quarter, the 3-pointers proved beneficial for SMCC. McGee connected on one before Tangle added two of her own, the second of which came with about 3:00 to go in the period, giving the Bears a five-point advantage at 47-42.
For the remainder of the contest, the Bears got consistent scoring from both McGee and Tangle to help their team ride off with the win and the momentum boost heading into the playoffs.
Tangle said her team has the right plan in place to keep the intensity and momentum going before the Bears will play their first playoff game next week.
“Coach makes sure to keep it competitive and keep us hungry for the tournament because it has been a crazy year and our season has carried on a lot longer and the teams are getting mentally tired,” she said.
“It is important for us to keep focused on the ultimate prize.”
In addition to McGee’s stellar play, Tangle also had a big night finishing with 17 points.