FRISCO, Texas – Anastasia Hayes entered Thursday’s matchup against Louisiana Tech as the Conference USA Player of the Year and the nation’s leading scorer.
And for 40 minutes at The Star in Frisco, she showed why.
Hayes scored 34 points, grabbed seven rebounds and added five assists to lead the Blue Raiders to a 77-71 win over the Lady Techsters in quarterfinal action of the 2021 Air Force Reserve Women’s Basketball Championships presented by Baylor Scott & White Medical Center Frisco.
Tech (14-10), who won its first-round game 50-48 over Marshall on Wednesday afternoon, led 51-50 through three quarters and was poised for the upset over the East Division champion. However, Middle Tennessee scored 15 of the first 17 points in the frame and then held on for the victory at the end.
“The difference was the start to the fourth quarter,” said Tech head coach Brooke Stoehr. “They went on that 7-0 run in the first three possessions. We had three straight empty possessions offensively and they converted on the other end. They made opens shots. They made some threes when we had to focus so much on Hayes and her ability to get to the rim and to the free throw line. You just have to credit them.”
Tech trailed 65-53 with less than five minutes to play when senior guard Raizel Guinto almost single handedly shot the Lady Techsters back into the game. Guinto scored 17 of her career-high 22 points over the final five minutes of the game and helped cut the MT lead to three-points with less than a minute to play.
After Hayes missed two free throws, Tech had one last opportunity to tie it but a turnover on a jump ball with 10 seconds to play sealed the fate.
“It’s a one possession game with less than 20 seconds to play, and we had a sideline inbounds play,” said Stoehr. “We just couldn’t execute on it. Bottom line is we gave up 77 points and we didn’t get stops when we needed to today.”
After jumping out to an early 9-4 lead, Tech saw Middle Tennessee use a 20-4 run over the next five minutes to build a 24-13 advantage late in the first quarter. But the Lady Techsters fought back as they have all year, and took a 31-30 lead on an Amber Dixon layup with 3:14 to play before the half.
Middle Tennessee scored the final six points of the second quarter to lead 36-31 at the break.
Tech responded with an impressive third quarter, hitting 8-of-13 of its field goals – including a pair of three-pointers by Lotte Sant – to outscore the Blue Raiders 20-14 and take the one-point lead into the final 10 minutes of play.
One day after recording a 22-point, 14-rebound performance in the win over Marshall, sophomore forward Anna Larr Roberson scored 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Keiunna Walker, who fouled out late in the fourth quarter, ended with 13 points and six boards.
“I think this team has been incredible,” said Stoehr. “They made a lot of sacrifices for the opportunity to compete. I am so incredibly grateful for their willingness to do that this year, in a year when a lot of players and even teams didn’t want to do that. I am really proud to be their coach.”
Photo: by Jordan Foreman, courtesy C-USA