SU women hold on to first in SWAC

About the only thing that was normal for the Southern women’s basketball team Monday night was that it won.

The Jaguars (15-6) beat Mississippi Valley State 70-65 in the F.G. Clark Activity Center to maintain their hold on first place in the Southwestern Athletic Conference with a 12-1 league mark.

But Southern got off to slow starts in both halves, the defense was porous at times, leading scorer Kendra Coleman’s shooting was way off, Kenidi Robinson had to fight through a migraine and coach Sandy Pugh didn’t feel well enough to do her usual post-game interviews.

Nonetheless the Jaguars found a way to fight off the feisty Devilettes, 8-16, 7-6.

“I thought we played extremely hard coming down the stretch,” assistant coach Carlos Funchess said. “We kept battling and battling. You’re going to have some games like this.

“I think it was important that we have a game like this and show our toughness.”

Jasmine Jefferson led Southern with 16 points and 11 rebounds and Coleman had 15 points, but made just 2-of-17 shots, including 1-of-12 free throws.

“Kendra couldn’t hit a shot tonight,” Funchess said. “She kept taking the good shots, had good looks but some nights it’s like LeBron James or Michael Jordan — they just don’t fall, But the other kids picked their game up and got the win.”

Adrian Sanders scored 10 points and Britney Washington and Cortnei Purnell did the same off the Southern bench.

Joncyee Sanders had 16 points, eight assists and seven rebounds to lead MVSU, Jasmyne Sanders scored 14 and Ashley Beals had 12.

“(Joncyee Sanders) may be the best passing point guard in the league,” Funchess said. “She did a good job of getting her shooters open and making good shots. She can create a lot of problems for you.

“With us being in first place you’re going to get everybody’s best shot. We watch teams on tape and they might struggle a little bit but when they come and play us they hit big shots. It’s a challenge for us every night and getting up every night is tough. You have a bull’s-eye on your chest.”

The Jaguars saw a seven point lead turn into a two-point deficit as they made just one field in a period of more than six minutes down the stretch. Jefferson’s layup tied the score at 63 with two minutes left and Southern clamped down defensively.

Coleman was fouled shooting a 3-pointer and made all three free throws for a 66-63 lead with 1:49 left.

Robinson, who kept applying a damp cloth to her forehead while she was on the bench, drew a charging foul on A’Shanti Weathers.

Adrian Sanders had an opportunity to extend the lead, but missed two free throws. The Jaguars got the ball back when Olivia Kennedy missed a 3-pointer with 45 seconds left and Purnell rebounded.

With the shot clock winding down, Washington hit a jumper from the corner for a five-point lead with 15 seconds left.

“(Washington’s) game has really come on since last year,” Funchess said. “She came in this summer and worked extremely hard and it’s paying off now.”

Joncyee Sanders scored on a drive with 10 seconds left, but Coleman put it away by making two free throws with six seconds left. She finished 10-of-11 at the foul line.

“She’s an excellent free throw shooter,” Funchess said. “She’s not afraid to go to the line. She’s clutch.”

Southern players were not available for interviews for the second consecutive game. Pugh placed them off limits after a sluggish victory against Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Saturday because she said they hadn’t played well enough to enjoy the “perk” of being quoted in the media.

The Jaguars visit Alabama A&M on Saturday.

“We didn’t play as well as I thought we should have; coach Pugh felt the same way,” Funchess said Monday. “We work every day trying to get better every game and I don’t think we played as well as we’re capable of playing.”