By George Slaughter
There’s a first time for everything, and for the Abilene Christian Wildcats, Saturday night’s 77-60 win over the New Orleans Privateers was twice as nice. The win clinched their first-ever Southland Conference men’s basketball title, and it clinched their first-ever NCAA tournament berth.
The women’s team also won its tournament, defeating Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Sunday afternoon.
The ACU men’s team will play Kentucky on Thursday. The women’s team will learn its matchup Monday.
Wildcat Women’s Team Defeats Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
Breanna Wright scored 16 points, and Makayla Mabry and Dominique Golightly added 15 each, to power the fourth-seeded Lady Wildcats past the sixth-seeded Lady Islanders Sunday afternoon.
The Lady Wildcats improve to 23-9, while the Lady Islanders fall to 17-16. Dalesia Booth led Corpus Christi with 23 points.
ACU raced to a 43-25 halftime lead, but the Lady Islanders came back with a 20-point third quarter and kept on fighting to tie the game on a Booth free throw with 1:57 left. The Lady Wildcats came back with Lexie Ducat layup with 1:05 remaining to give ACU the lead for good.
The Lady Wildcats defeated top-seeded Lamar and eighth-seeded Central Arkansas to reach Sunday’s championship game. The Lady Islanders defeated second-seeded Stephen F. Austin, third-seeded Nicholls, and seventh-seeded New Orleans.
Wildcat Men’s Team Defeats New Orleans
Jaren Lewis scored 20 points, making 10 of 17 shots, to lead the Wildcats past the Privateers Saturday night.
Jaylon Franklin added 16 points for the second-seeded Wildcats, who improve to 27-6 with the win. ACU defeated third-seeded Southeastern Louisiana Friday night to reach Saturday’s championship game.
Bryson Robinson led the Privateers with 14 points, including four three-pointers. The fourth-seeded Privateers, playing their third game in as many nights, fall to 19-12 with the loss.
New Orleans defeated fifth-seeded Lamar, 76-72, on Thursday. The Privateers upset top-seeded Sam Houston State, 79-76, Friday night.
Saturday’s game started fast for both teams before the Wildcats asserted themselves and took a 40-29 halftime lead. But it was a 14-0 run late in the second half that gave the Wildcats a 22-point lead and clinched the victory.
ACU’s path to Saturday’s victory was a longer one than that of many other programs. For many years, the Wildcats competed in the Division II Lone Star Conference. In 2013, they joined the Southland Conference and had to learn to compete at the Division I level. They endured four losing seasons until finishing with a .500 record last season.