GREENVILLE, S.C.- The Alabama Crimson Tide women’s basketball team looked to keep their season alive Thursday, facing off against arch-rival Auburn University in the second round of the 2019 SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament.
Just over twenty-four hours prior to the Iron Bowl of women’s basketball Alabama knocked off the Vanderbilt Commodores in the first round of the tournament 74-57. Auburn was tipping off for the first time in Greenville Thursday night as they received a bye to the quarterfinal round.
There is no understating how intense the rivalry can be regardless of if it’s football, baseball or women’s basketball, although unlike usual, these two schools squared off outside of the state of Alabama.
The first time AU met UA this season was in early January on the floor of Coleman Coliseum. The Tigers snuck away with a 66-56 win in a close game. The second meeting was a drastically different story. Auburn dominated the Tide pulling away to a 77-38 victory on the plains.
The winner of meeting number three would have a date with the Texas A&M Aggies who received a double-bye straight to the semi-final round of the tournament.
Thursday’s matchup was opened up with a drained Cierra Johnson three point basket. Auburn would then go on a 5-0 run to take their only lead of the first quarter and of the half at 5-3.
Johnson continued to shine for Alabama down the stretch in the first period scoring seven points boosting Bama to a 12-8 advantage at the end of quarter number one.
Within the first twenty seconds of the second 10 minutes of action the Tigers reeled the lead back to a single point at 12-11. The Tide managed to hold off the high scoring Tigers keeping things tied 15-15 three minutes into the second quarter.
Cierra Johnson showed no sign of letting up on offense and received help from captain Shaquera Wade to give Alabama their biggest lead of the game at 21-15 with six minutes left in the first half.
The Tigers, who spread the offense evenly in the first 14 minutes, tied the game once again 23-23 with only two and half minutes remaining before the halftime break. The Crimson Tide would bring Auburn’s offense to a dead halt, not allowing another point in the half while scoring four of their own to take a slim 27-23 lead into halftime. Johnson still led Alabama in scoring with 13 points at the break.
Nearly two minutes passed in the third quarter before Auburn’s Janiah McKay knocked down a lay-in to cut Alabama’s lead back to two. The Crimson Tide matched their biggest lead of the game at 32-26 after Ariyah Copeland got the bench on their feet when she was left wide open for an easy score.
Only three minutes and 42 seconds into the second half the Tide had already accrued five team fouls.
Bama would go on a three-minute scoring drought but would have it ended with another crucial Cierra Johnson triple to top UA’s biggest lead once again this time by seven 35-28.
They would hold that lead steady throughout the remainder of the third quarter but take only a four-point advantage into the final 10 minutes after Erica Sanders found the bottom of the net, hitting a mid-range jumper with time expiring.
Robyn Benton came out firing for the Tigers to begin the final period hitting a three almost immediately to cut the lead back to 38-37. Shaquera Wade would answer right back with a personal 5-0 run, matching Bama’s biggest lead once again at seven points.
AU turned the table right then and there going on an 11-0 run to take only their second lead of the game at 49-45 with five and half minutes left.
A two-minute scoring drought went into effect for both teams until Shaquera Wade drilled a 3-pointer in the corner to bring the lead back to one, 49-48 with 3:15 to go.
With 48 seconds left on the clock, Alabama had the basketball and had the chance to take a two-point lead, but watched that hope rim in and out of the basket and into the hands of Auburn off of a Wade missed 3-point shot.
The Tide would not give up on their season, with only twelve seconds to go several players forced a jump ball getting Bama back possession still down a point. It all came down to this, a chance to move on to the quarterfinals or the end of an entire season.
When trying to inbound the ball, senior Taylor Berry was called for a five second violation giving Auburn the ball right back. The Tigers would turn around and hit both free throws leaving Alabama with a 53-50 deficit with 11 seconds to go.
After a challenging inbound Cierra Johnson who led Bama the entire contest stood as the Crimson Tide’s final hope. Her 3-point attempt fell just short and into the hands of Ariyah Copeland who then made a wide open layup, but it wouldn’t be enough.
The final score would read 53-52 putting a wrap on a season full of excitement and memories. Alabama finishes the season with a record of 14-17. Shaquera Wade ended her final game as a member of the Crimson Tide leading Bama in scoring with 19 points.
Head coach Kristy Curry gave her thoughts on Alabama’s run at the SEC Tournament and the season as a whole.
“I thought we continued to improve throughout the course of the year and that’s all you can ask for…we’re ready just to get back to work, and get started on next year.”
Player of the Game: Senior, Guard; Shaquera Wade- 19 pts., 2 ast., 9 rebs.
(Photo Courtesy The Crimson White)