RICHARDSON, Texas – Hardin-Simmons' women's basketball advanced to its first American Southwest Conference Championship game since 2009 with an 81-78 overtime win over No. 1 seed UT-Dallas on Friday night in Richardson.
The Cowgirls bounced back time and time again and pulled out the gutty win with its only senior Taylor Gaffney on the bench after fouling out early in overtime. UTD went up five points early in overtime but the Cowgirls weren't fazed. Keilee Burke split a pair of free throws to cut the deficit to 72-68 and then the Cowgirls received back-to-back 3-pointers from freshmen Hallie Edmondson and Brittany Schnabel to take a 74-72 lead with 2:52 to play in the extra period.
Victoria Pena hit a pair of free throws to tie the game at 74 for UTD and Schnabel answered with two free throws of her own and Pena hit a step-back 3-pointer to make it 77-76 with 1:26 remaining. Kaitlyn Ellis wasted no time giving the Cowgirls the lead at 78-77 with a tough basket in the paint.
Nkachinyereem Okehi split a pair of free throws with :44 to play to tie the game. HSU took the lead on a Burke layup and Pena then came down and shot an airball and after UTD had to foul Schnabel split two free throws and Pena had one last chance to tie but her 3-pointer came up short to set off a Cowgirl celebration.
UT-Dallas opened the game with its usual early game run. The Comets hit 12-of-15 shots in the first quarter and led 30-18 after the first quarter. UTD led by as many as 14 points in the second quarter and led by double digits most of the way. HSU did cut the deficit to 38-28 at halftime.
HSU hung around in the third quarter and cut it to 49-45 with 2:41 to play in the third on a Jesyka Lee layup. A week ago in the two team's only regular-season game against each other HSU had a similar scenario but UTD put the pedal down and raced to an 18-point win. This time they led 53-45 going to the fourth period.
The Cowgirls made a statement early in the fourth they weren't going away as Gaffney hit back-to-back 3-pointers and Burke hit two free throws and HSU tied the game at 53 with 7:21 to play. The teams scrapped it out the rest of the way and Burke's free throws with :12 to play tied the game. Pena missed a potential game-winner and HSU had a couple of contested looks that wouldn't fall in the last five seconds to send the game to overtime.
Gaffney led the Cowgirls with 20 points and Ellis added 17. Parmer scored 13 points and became HSU's all-time leading freshmen scorer in school history. Burke had nine points and 11 rebounds.
Pena led the Comets with 29 points and ASC leading scorer Raenett Hughes added 21.
The Cowgirls are now 21-6 on the year and UTD is 22-5 on the season. HSU will play Mary Hardin-Baylor in the Championship game at 6 p.m. on Saturday at UTD. The two teams split their regular-season meetings with each team winning on its home floor.
HSU will be looking for its seventh ASC title and first since 2004.
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