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Women’s Basketball: Wilridge leads Cajuns into WBI finals

Kevin Foote, The Advertiser, March 23, 2016


     Youngstown State vs UL Ragin Cajuns                         March 23, 2016

Ragin’ Cajuns guard Kia Wilridge (10) goes up for two of her career-high 22 points during UL’s win over Youngstown State on Wednesday in the Cajundome.(Photo: Buddy Delahoussaye)


She was just joking at the time.

But perhaps Kia Wilridge’s first answer was more of a reason for her performance than she intended.

Asked what led to her career-high 22-point performance in Wednesday’s 69-49 WBI semifinals win over Youngstown State at the Cajundome, UL’s senior guard laughed and responded, “my new fingernail polish.”

Whatever it was, it worked.

Known primarily for her intense defense, expert ball handling and unselfish distributing throughout her career, Wilridge added an offensive display to remember in her second to last collegiate game.

The former St. Thomas More standout hit 10 of 16 shots in 39 minutes to get to 22 points, along with seven rebounds, two assists and three steals.

Wilridge and the Cajuns will now meet the SC-Upstate/Weber State winner in the WBI championship game at 4 p.m. Saturday at E.K. Long Gym.

“I’ve been saying that we can’t put it all on Keke (Veal to score),” said Wilridge, who admitted being too uptight about her shooting touch in the past. “I just decided to go out there and have fun. I just let it fly.”

Wilridge’s previous high was 21 points in 2014 against Western Kentucky,and previous high this season was 20.

“I thought Kia did a great job of attacking the basket and getting great shots,” UL coach Garry Brodhead said.

The 20-point final score was a bit deceiving. After a very offensive first half for both with UL leading 21-17 after one, the Cajuns threatened a quick blowout with an 11-1 run to open the second period.

“I thought both teams scored way too easily in the first quarter,” Brodhead said.

But Youngstown State’s reputation as a 3-point shooting team came to the forefront with four bombs down the stretch in the first half to narrow the gap to 36-33 with 47 seconds left until intermission.

“Coach is always talking about keeping them out of the middle,” said Veal, who finished with 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting, along with eight rebounds, three assists and four steals.

“We stopped the ball from getting into the middle (in the third quarter).”

And the result was obvious. The Penguins only scored six points in the third period to build a 51-39 lead entering the fourth, and the fourth quarter didn’t treat the visitors any better.

UL opened the final period with an 8-2 run for a commanding 59-41 lead and never looked back.

“We weren’t closing out on their shooters,” Brodhead said. “We weren’t doing (defensively) what we wanted to do. You couldn’t help out that much against them and get back to your man.”

The other big factor in UL’s favor was YSU’s best post player Sarah Cash being in constant foul trouble, limiting her to six points and two rebounds in 17 minutes.

“That made it a lot easier to guard them,” Brodhead said.

It also helped Simone Fields have her way in the paint, finishing with 16 points, eight rebounds and two steals.

“When you attack the elbows and get the ball in the middle, it makes you very difficult to guard,” Brodhead said.

Janae Jackson and Nikki Arbanas led the Penguins with 11 points apiece, but they ended up shooting 36 percent for the game after hitting half their attempts in the first half.

The Cajuns forced 18 turnovers, compared to just nine for the Cajuns, who shot 48.4 percent and outrebounded YSU 37-30.

“We attacked and were getting shots we wanted, so we didn’t have to settle for threes,” Veal said.