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Hamilton, Hill, Gorham shine as Lady Eagles upend Heartland power TAMIU

OC guard Sydney Hill drives toward the basket against Texas A&M International's Jessica Prieto during the Lady Eagles' win on Thursday night. Hill had 17 points and seven assists.
OC guard Sydney Hill drives toward the basket against Texas A&M International's Jessica Prieto during the Lady Eagles' win on Thursday night. Hill had 17 points and seven assists.

OKLAHOMA CITY (Jan. 23, 2014) – This time against Texas A&M International, Oklahoma Christian made sure the basketball game didn’t come down to the final shot.

Roz Hamilton had 19 points (on 7 of 10 shooting) and eight rebounds and Sydney Hill added 17 points and seven assists as the Lady Eagles built a double-digit second-half lead, then executed down the stretch to beat TAMIU 81-73 at the Eagles’ Nest.

TAMIU (13-4, 9-2 Heartland Conference) fell two games behind league-leading Lubbock Christian (Texas) while OC (9-7, 5-4) won its third straight game to move above the .500 mark in conference play for the first time this season.

Since OC joined the Heartland before last season, the Dustdevils had won their first three games against the Lady Eagles – by a cumulative total of five points. That included a one-point win over OC in Laredo, Texas, on Nov. 23.

“We’ve struggled with them every time and it’s always a close game, it seems like,” OC coach Stephanie Findley said. “But tonight the girls were really on it – shooting well from the 3-point line, rebounding pretty well and following the game plan on defense, which I thought was a key for us in that second half.”

OC overcame a tremendous performance by TAMIU center Malika Jackson, who scored a season-high 31 points on 10 of 13 shooting and added 10 rebounds to record her seventh double-double of the season.  Samantha Chacon added 18 points for the Dustdevils, who shot 15.4 percent (4 of 24) from 3-point range and 34.2 percent (25 of 73) from the field.

Eventually, the Lady Eagles were able to slow Jackson by double-teaming her defensively. OC’s post players also presented challenges for the Dustdevils. Besides Hamilton, Jordan Gorham came off the bench to score 10 points in just nine minutes and Andee Wayne grabbed seven rebounds. OC outrebounded the Dustdevils 45-41.

OC also shot the ball well, hitting 50 percent (28 of 56) from the field and 58.3 percent (7 of 12) from 3-point range.

“Sydney and Roz had a good game overall,” Findley said. “… They were doing their jobs and had big games, and they seem to have big games against International for some reason.

“Jordan Gorham was huge off the bench, being able to get in there and play physical with their post player, who was giving us fits. She pulled down quite a few tough rebounds, and I might mention that Andee Wayne pulled down seven boards. They really came off the bench and did a great job rebounding and helping us defend their big girls.”

OC trailed 29-24 with eight minutes to go in the first half but took a 39-38 lead into halftime. TAMIU took its last lead at 44-43 on a layup by Re’Nikia Meshack with 17:01 left, but OC then seized control of the game with a 13-3 run. When Emma Gade made the back end of a two-shot free-throw opportunity, OC led 56-47 with 13:16 left.

The Dustdevils pulled within four points at 64-60 on a Chacon basket with 8:05 left, but a basket by Gorham started a 12-3 run by OC that put the Lady Eagles up 76-63 with 3:03 left.

TAMIU came no closer than seven points the rest of the way, as Hill made a layup, then two free throws in the final two minutes to keep the Dustdevils at bay.

The Heartland’s third-place team, St. Mary’s (Texas), will be OC’s final opponent on what Findley said two weeks ago would be a critical four-game homestand. So far the Lady Eagles are 3-0.

“We’re getting better and better,” she said. “You see people coming off the bench providing spark, points, defense, whatever. It was Jordan and Andee tonight, and you know what, Jaz (Jasmine Hinton) hit a couple of special 3-pointers when we needed them. Those kids are learning to come off the bench and be able to do their thing.”