March 8, 2014
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BEAUMONT, Texas - Gia Ayers made sure Senior Day was to remember for both her and her Lamar Lady Cardinals teammates.
The Lamar senior guard poured in a career-high 39 points and added 10 assists as Lamar clinched the No. 1 seed in next week's Southland Conference Tournament with a 92-77 win over Southeastern Louisiana in the Montagne Center.
"Gia was on fire tonight," Lamar coach Robin Harmony said. "It's tough to do what she did, she decided to put the ball in the basket and they couldn't stop her."
Ayers had a premonition that Saturday might be something special.
"I told JaMeisha Edwards that I was going to go for 40 points tonight," Ayers said. "I wanted my last game in the Montagne Center to be special."
Lamar (18-11 overall, 13-5 Southland) led by as many as 19 points in the first half before Southeastern Louisiana (8-22, 17-11) cut the LU lead to 41-36 at halftime. The Lady Lions held a 65-64 lead with 8:32 remaining before Lamar took control with a 10-run.
"We are the `Cardiac Cardinals' for a reason," Harmony said. "We let them have it at halftime. It's to their credit that they stepped up in the second half."
Lamar finished in a first place tie with Stephen F. Austin, but held the tiebreaker over the Ladyjacks to get the top seed, repeating the scenario from 2010 when they shared the crown with SFA, earning the No. 1 seed, winning the Southland Conference Tournament and advancing to the NCAA Tournament.
"It will be great to have a banner hanging in the Montagne Center for what we accomplished," Ayers said. "But we're not finished. We want to win the Southland Tournament and go to the NCAAs."
Kiandra Bowers had 15 points for Lamar, while Dominique Edwards added 14 points. Bowers added four steals to help key a Lamar defense that forced the Lady Lions into 26 turnovers that resulted in 30 Lamar points.
Elizabeth Styles led Southeastern Louisiana with 15 points. Nanna Pool had a double-double of 11 points and 11 rebounds, while Erica Hernandez also had 11 points.
As the No. 1 seed, Lamar is guaranteed of a berth in the WNIT if it doesn't earn the automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament by winning the Southland Conference Tournament.
"We want to go to the NCAAs," Ayers said. "That's our goal now."
Lamar earned a berth into the Southland Conference Tournament semifinals. The Lady Cardinals will play at noon Saturday at the Merrell Center in Katy, Texas. The championship game is set for noon March 16.
"We are going to make the Merrell Center our home court now," Harmony said. "I'm looking forward to seeing a lot of our fans there."