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WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Cardinals take over first place

Cardinals 79, Ladyjacks 65

Jadyn Pimentel of Lamar leaps to make a pass to Rikiah Cowart as Imani Johnson of SFA defends Saturday in Beaumont. (I.C. Murrell/The News)

Moe Kinard of Lamar pulls up for a made jumpshot and is fouled as Imani Johnson, left, and Stevi Parker of SFA defend Saturday in Beaumont. (I.C. Murrell/The News)

Kiandra Bowers of Lamar corrals an offensive rebound as Riley Harvey and Imani Johnson of SFA defend Saturday in Beaumont. (I.C. Murrell/The News)

Lamar sports information

BEAUMONT — The Lamar Cardinals used a balanced scoring effort to move into sole possession of first place in the Southland Conference women’s basketball standings with a hard-fought 79-65 victory over the visiting Stephen F. Austin Ladyjacks at the Montagne Center on Saturday afternoon.

The Cardinals (15-6 overall, 10-1 Southland) had five players score in double figures as they moved a half-game ahead of the Ladyjacks (17-4, 9-1) in the standings. The win extended LU’s school-record home winning streak to 25 games.

The Cardinals rallied from a 35-30 halftime deficit in front of a spirited crowed that featured more than 50 LU women’s basketball alumnae on a day when three former LU greats (Carolyn Ford, Kalis Loyd and Carol Sims) became the first LU women’s basketball players to have their jerseys retired.

“We had a great crowd, and I know it fired our kids up,” LU coach Robin Harmony said. “It would have been heartbreaking not to win in front of this big crowd.”

LU pulled out the win on a day when its top two scorers, Moe Kinard and Chastadie Barrs, saw limited minutes due to foul trouble. Freshman guard Jadyn Pimentel stepped up to fill the void left by Barrs, finishing with 17 points.

“Jadyn stepped up today. She made it happen,” Harmony said. “She found her shot. She penetrated. She found Kiandra (Bowers).

“The thing that I’m most proud of is that we didn’t lose our composure. They didn’t have a chance to come back on us when we had that lead.”

Bowers continued her hot play, posting her eighth double-double of the season and 32nd of her career, as she had 14 points and a game-high 17 rebounds. Bowers has four double-doubles in the last five games, averaging 15.8 points and 15.2 rebounds over that span.

“I loved that we had such a big crowd here,” Bowers said. “We always get up when we have that kind of support.”

DeA’ngela Mathis also had 17 points for LU. Baileigh O’Dell had 11 points off the bench, while Kinard added 10 points.

The Cardinals had a 43-32 rebounding edge against the Ladyjacks, who came into Saturday’s contest outrebounding their opponents by an average of 2.8 per game. Mathis contributed to LU’s total with nine rebounds, as she was one rebound shy of her second career double-double.

SFA had just eight offensive rebounds for the afternoon, as LU outscored the Ladyjacks 12-0 in second-chance points.

LU outscored SFA 49-30 in the second half, shooting 53.1 percent (17-of-32) after intermission. The Cardinals outscored the Ladyjacks 15-6 in points off turnovers over the final two quarters.

Taylor Jackson led SFA with 23 points, while Channel Hayes added 18 points.

Barrs was held scoreless, but had a game-high five assists to go along with four steals in just 19 minutes. The junior guard now has at least one steal in all 82 games of her career and boosted her Southland Conference career record to 401 steals.

The Cardinals wrap up their four-game homestand when they host Northwestern State at 7 p.m. Wednesday. The Lady Demons (7-15, 2-9) dropped a 60-44 decision to visiting McNeese State on Saturday.

“I don’t think you have to worry about us being easy on the players,” Harmony said when asked about if she was worried about a letdown. “We’re going to take that intensity level and see if we can get it even higher. The more successful you are, the bigger the bull’s-eye gets, and that bull’s-eye is getting larger. We have to remind them and keep them humble.”

PROMOTIONS

Wednesday is LU’s annual Play 4 Kay game to raise awareness for breast-cancer research and awareness. Pink T-shirts will be given away while supplies last. There will be a postgame autograph session with the senior student-athletes on this season’s roster.