Women’s Basketball: Cajuns capture WBI crown
Kevin Foote, The Advertiser, March 29, 2015
During Robbie Brown’s first season in the UL women’s basketball program, the Ragin’ Cajuns only won seven games.
In the first year under new coach Garry Brodhead, the Cajuns got to 10 wins.
When year three under the new regime concluded Sunday night at E.K. Long Gym, Brown ended her career as a champion.
Making the story even better, it was Brown who made the big shot and got the big steal that vaulted the Ragin’ Cajuns to both a 23-win season and more importantly, a WBI Tournament Championship after a 52-50 victory over the Siena Saints.
“I couldn’t imagine it ending any better than that,” Brown said.
“I couldn’t ask for better than going out as a champion. I was the No. 1 teammate and now I’m going to be their No. 1 fan. I’m going to be here as much as I can next year.”
Brown delivered big when the Cajuns needed it most. The Cajuns led by 14 points at 44-30 with 12:10 left to play. Over the next 11 minutes, however, UL only managed three points.
Suddenly, the visiting Saints had gained their first lead since 2-0 at 48-47 with 1:44 left. Dribbling on the right wing and the shot clock winding down, Brown fired up a 3-pointer and it ripped the bottom of the net to give the Cajuns the lead for good at 50-48 with 1:18 left.
“We were down one and there were only seven seconds left on the shot clock,” Brown said. “I knew I had to score.”
After Siena kept the pressure on with a layup with 13.6 seconds left to narrow the gap to 51-50 and then UL missed a front end with 9.7 seconds, it appeared the Saints would be able to get off a last-second shot for a potential game-winner.
Instead, Brown came up with a huge steal and the Cajun celebration was under way.
“I’m happy for Robbie,” Brodhead said. “We relied on Robbie (down the stretch). She played extremely well in the last couple of weeks, especially defensively.
“She leaves a legacy. She leaves hanging a banner. This is great to end her career. A crazy old coach was tough on her (early in career) and she was able to stick with it.”
While Brown’s senior season ended in style, so did Keke Veal’s junior season. Now she has the hardware to prove it with the Most Valuable Player award after Sunday’s championship game victory.
In the finals, Veal scored 20 points, along with six rebounds and two steals, as the only other double-digit scorer for the Cajuns. On the other side, Siena was led by 13 points apiece from Meghan Donohue and Tehrest Coles.
Thanks to Veal’s 13-point first half, the Cajuns were off and running in front of the capacity crowd at E.K. Long Gym.
After back-to-back Veal baskets, she fed Jodi Quinn for a score inside and then Kia Wilridge ended the first half with a bucket off an in-bounds pass from Brown for a 34-24 halftime lead.
“I know our kids were feeling pretty good at the half, but I didn‘t feel that way at the half,” Brodhead said.
“Our offense kind of got stagnant in the second half and I think the kids got tired. They were big and strong. And defensively, we didn’t protect the middle against anybody.”
And as expected, Siena was determined.
The Saints (22-13) answered that 14-point deficit with 12:10 left with a Ida Krogh 3-pointer to ignite an 11-point run to get Siena right back in it.
That run didn’t surprise either coach.
“We’ve been down 20 and come back (this season),” Siena coach Ali Jacques said. “We lost our point guard the first practice of the season.
“This team has been through hell and back and they just keep coming back for more.”
Siena committed 21 turnovers to UL’s 17. The Saints made 14 of 17 tries at the line to ignite the comeback.
“I think this game was for the fans,” Brodhead said. “I don’t think we needed to win this game to realize that we can be good. You don’t just build tradition with coaches and players. You need fans too to build tradition.”
As well as seniors who go out in style.