For the second straight season, the University of Alabama in Huntsville women's basketball team was put out of the NCAA Tournament by in-conference rival and perennial Division II powerhouse Delta State, 81-58 on Saturday evening at the Don Taft University Center on the campus of Nova Southeastern University in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
UAH (16-17) will end their season with a couple of monumental milestones on their side, after winning their first-ever Gulf South Conference Championship and coupling that with the program's first-ever NCAA Tournament win.
"I'm just so proud of my four seniors, four seasons ago this program was 4-20, and then we had the greatest improvement in wins the year after. We really needed their veteran experience both then and now and this year they just kept it going," said Heintz.
The game started with a Delta State (21-9) 10-0 run with the Lady Chargers not recording their first basket until the 13:16 mark of the first half when Kendra Jones knocked in a fade-away jump shot. The two teams would trade baskets for the next 10 minutes until UAH went on a 7-0 run and would later tie the game.
UAH would take a three-point lead into the half at 30-27, but Delta State would come out in the second half with a goal and a mission in mind.
"I thought the first couple of minutes of the second half were pivotal for Delta State. I thought they came out and really got into us defensively and physically. I don't think our response to that momentum was good as it was in the first half," said Heintz.
The Lady Chargers went just over three minutes without a basket from the 8:28 mark to the 5:20 mark of the second half, allowing the Lady Statesmen to go on a 10-0 run and put the game on ice. The second half was an overall struggle for UAH, as the team went 0-for-5 from three-point land and just 10-for-30 from the floor. Delta State would have one of their strongest shooting halves of the season, going 15-for-26 from the field and making 32 trips to the free throw line.
A total of 10 players would score a basket for UAH, while only one player finished in double figures as Kendra Jones recorded 10 points in the game. Jasmine Hammon, Natalie Kelley and Bailee Robinson finished with nine, eight and seven points, respectively.
Four seniors (Natalie Kelley, Bailee Robinson, Morgan Duncan and Francheska Nimes) will leave the program having helped to accomplish something no other team in program history has done, while several key players will return to UAH for next season.
"Last year we went further than any team before and this year we went further than last year. Next year our goal will be the elite eight," said Jasmine Hammon.
The team will certainly have the target on their back next season, having won the GSC and continuing each year to make an even stronger push in the NCAA Tournament.