Women head to conference tournament on hot streak

In the last couple of weeks, women’s basketball Head Coach Jeff Soderquist said his team’s goal for the regular season was a fourth seed. After a 3-1 stretch capped off by a victory over Oklahoma Baptist to end the regular season helped the Lady Eagles accomplish that goal; they have a new, more difficult goal: Winning the conference tournament.

“Instead of going into the tournament hoping that we can do something, we go in to the tournament thinking we’re doing pretty good,” Soderquist said. “Its all about mentality when you get to this time of year.”

The Lady Eagles, despite being a fourth seed in the conference tournament, are unranked in the NAIA Coaches Poll, does as a result will have to win the conference tournament to make it to the National tournament. Before that can happen, though, JBU will have to contend with a first round rematch with Oklahoma Baptist, who is hosting the tournament.

The Lady Eagles lost their only game at Oklahoma Baptist 56-46 and won their regular season finale over OBU 69-53.

Soderquist said that, with similar offensive performances from the Bison in both games, the difference between the loss and the win was the Lady Eagles’ offense.

“Defensively we did a good job both games,” Soderquist said. “The big difference was the way we executed our offense.”

On Saturday, in a game they needed to win to lock up the fourth seed, the Lady Eagles were led by sophomore guard Lauren Rogers, who had a game-high 18 points. The Lady Eagles’ 69 points were the most points they have scored in a game since a 79-69 victory over USAO on Jan. 31.

“Saturday we played really well offensively,” Soderquist said. “We moved the ball well; we really played to find the open person.”

If the Lady Eagles are to extend their season, it will take more than a victory over OBU. This season, as has been true for the last four seasons, all roads to a conference championship go through Oklahoma City. The Stars, ranked second in the NAIA Coaches’ poll, are defending National Champions and have won the SAC tournament four out the last five seasons. If the Lady Eagles can win their rematch with OBU they will almost assuredly face the Stars in the second round. OCU ended the Eagles season last year by beating JBU 88-54 in the first round of last years’ tournament, which was hosted by John Brown.

“If you look at Oklahoma City and how they’ve gone through conference, they’ve done it with their defense,” Soderquist said, “We’ve got to find a way to not turn the ball over and get good quality shots.”

The Lady Eagles will open the tournament in Shawnee with a matchup with Oklahoma Baptist at 12:30 p.m. thursday.