Stephens’ status still uncertain for Southern women

The status of senior post player Laneisha Stephens, who entered the season with a partially torn ACL, remains uncertain as the Southern women’s basketball team continues a three-game homestand Monday night against Alabama A&M.

Stephens did not play in Saturday’s victory over Alabama State after managing just 11 minutes in a loss to Mississippi Valley the game before.

Stephens has fought through the injury in her left knee most of the season, but coach Sandy Pugh said last week that the pain was mounting and she needed some rest.

“She’s a tough kid,” Pugh said. “If she can go, she will.”

If she can’t, Southern may continue looking to its freshman class for key minutes.

Jasmine King and Britney Washington, who scored 14 points in the Valley game, both started Saturday as Southern controlled visiting Alabama State in a 55-44 win.

Jadea Brundidge, who played 12 minutes, made one of the game’s most significant plays when she blocked Kierra Page’s shot on the baseline with 6:49 left, setting up a three-point play by Lechell Rush that gave Southern an 11-point lead.

“Our freshmen have been waiting for their opportunity to come in and show they can step it up,” Rush said.

Southern, which has spent much of the Southwestern Athletic Conference season in first place, likely needs a win Monday to stay alive in the crowded conference race.

The Jaguars (12-13, 11-3) trail Texas Southern (15-9, 12-1) by 11/2 games, but they beat the Tigers in their SWAC opener and will meet them in Houston later this month. They hold a one-game lead on Mississippi Valley (13-12, 10-4) for second place; the Delta Devils have stretched their winning streak to six.

Valley visits Texas Southern on Monday.

“We set ourselves back and put ourselves in second,” Rush said. “But our conference is unpredictable, so who knows what can happen?”

The first time Southern faced A&M, the Bulldogs were right in the thick of the SWAC race. A&M (8-15, 7-6) won its first four SWAC games and sat 5-1 after six, but it has slipped five games out of first place — and has Southern and TSU as its next two opponents.

Pugh said the Jaguars will make stopping A&M guard Jasmine Sanders a priority. That’s not a surprise after Sanders went for 32 points and 10 rebounds in the teams’ first meeting, which Southern won 76-63 on Jan. 21 in Normal, Ala.

“We’re going to do a better job of containing her,” Pugh said. “We’ve got to make sure we’re as active with her as she is with us.”

Sanders ranks fourth in the SWAC at 11.9 points per game. She averages 6.6 rebounds to rank ninth.

In a 55-44 victory over Alcorn State on Saturday, Sanders had 10 points and 11 rebounds for her fifth double-double of the season.

A&M won for just the second time in seven games.