Ladies Defeat Southern Utah on Senior Night
Monday, February 12, 2007


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SHREVEPORT, La. -- Centenary (5-21, 1-10) sent its seniors out on a high note, earning a 72-67 win over Southern Utah (9-15, 5-5) in the home finale at the Gold Dome Monday.

Seniors Jelena Aleksic (Belgrade, Serbia), Tracee Byrd (Long Beach, Miss.) and Holli Wilkins (Evadale, Texas) all took to the Gold Dome court for one final time, one last chance to earn a victory in the twilight of their collegiate careers.

Paying homage to the departing seniors, the rest of the Centenary team raised its level of play, eager to end the home portion of its schedule on a winning note.

"We talked about before the game, you need to play for somebody else tonight. You don’t need to play for yourself," Centenary head coach Steve Curtis said following the win. "Just think about your teammates. Think about your seniors and let’s get them out of her the right way, because they deserve that."

An emotional, yet charged Ladies team took control of the game early, determined to win in the home finale. Fitting, the first basket of the game was made by a departing senior, a jumper from Aleksic from just inside the key.

Down by a basket to the Thunderbirds, two-straight three-pointers by Wilkins gave the Ladies a two-point lead at 12-10, a lead that would not be relinquished for the remainder of the contest.

In games past, Centenary would allow its opponents to forge a run at some point during the game to either retake the lead or build upon a lead. But a determined Ladies squad would yield no run to the visiting Thunderbirds, never trailing again after the 15:54 mark of the first half.

With Southern Utah leading scorer and rebounder Anne Westwood in foul trouble throughout the game, the inside presence of the Thunderbirds was absent for much of the game.

Asked what was the key to the five-point victory, Curtis pointed to the Ladies execution on the offensive end against a man-to-man defense. In Monday’s game against the man-to-man defense, Centenary shot 43.5 percent from the floor, its highest shooting percentage in the past 11 games.

Leading at the intermission 33-30, timely baskets aided the Ladies in keeping Southern Utah at bay. When the Thunderbirds would get within two points of tying the game, Centenary was able to hit a basket to reestablish its lead and hold it to a two-possession game.

A jumper by freshman guard Monique Jefferson (Birmingham, Ala.) with 8:05 left in the second half gave Centenary its largest lead of the game, leading by 13 and deflating Southern Utah’s comeback efforts.

What could be viewed as karma, the final basket by the Ladies was scored by a senior, a Wilkins layup with 5:32 left in the game. Wilkins led Centenary with 16 points, five assists and four steals.

A complete team effort, three players scored in double figures for Centenary. Joining Wilkins, Aleksic scored 12 and added six rebounds. Sophomore Cierra Bush (Campti, La.) scored 12 points on 2-of-5 shooting from the floor. Two freshman guards, Jefferson and Bethany Joseph (New Iberia, La.), had nine points each for the Ladies.

Please with the balanced scoring, Wilkins echoed the words of Curtis in that the team was not playing for themselves in Monday’s contest.

"We all gave everything we had for each other. Everything was even across the board," Wilkins said. "We played selflessly and it showed."

As the game ended and the final buzzer sounded, the group of 14 players met at center court for one last time this season. One more time to embrace, one more time to congratulate, one more time to salute the Gold Dome crowd...leaving the floor victorious.