ABILENE, Texas - The ACU Wildcats won the first four Lone Star Conference women's basketball championships in league history in the early 1980s, so it's only appropriate that they put a bookend on their 31-year run in the LSC Saturday afternoon with one final conference crown.
The Wildcats whipped Texas A&M-Kingsivlle, 82-53, to secure a co-conference championship with Midwestern State, the ninth conference championship in program history and first since the 1998-99 season. ACU will begin play in the LSC Post-Season Tournament at noon Wednesday against Texas A&M-Commerce as the Wildcats seek to win their eighth conference tournament title and first since that same 1998-99 season.
If the Wildcats beat the Lady Lions on Wednesday at the Allen Events Center, they will play either No. 3 seed West Texas A&M or No. 6 seed Angelo State at noon Friday in the tournament semifinals. The women's championship game is set for Saturday at 6 p.m.
"This is a great accomplishment for our team," ACU head coach Julie Goodenough said after her team cut down the nets at Moody Coliseum. "I told them in the locker room that I haven't won one of these in 10 years myself, so it was nice to be able to celebrate a conference title. We were picked to finish seventh in the pre-season poll, and that's something we've used as motivation as we tried to exceed the expectations the rest of the league had for this team."
Outside of a brief early flurry when the Wildcats were adjusting to Kingsville's full-court pressure, the Wildcats had little trouble with the Lady Javelinas, whom the Wildcats beat 76-61 on Jan. 19 in Kingsville. ACU finishes 51-16 all-time against the Lady Javelinas.
After a bucket by Kingsville's Ashley Benavides cut the ACU lead to 15-13 with 11:43 to play, the Wildcats ripped off an 18-3 run to take control of the contest.
Renata Marquez, Emily Miller and Mackenzie Lankford all scored five points in the run, while freshman guard Whitney West hit a 3-pointer. A 3-pointer from Marquez with 6:20 left in the half gave ACU a 33-16 lead and the Wildcats never looked back.
ACU's lead was 39-27 at halftime, but the Wildcats outscored the Lady Javelinas 11-3 to open the second half, pushing the lead to 20 points (50-30) in the first 2:46 of the half. Marquez opened the half with a layup, followed by a 3-pointer and a run-out layup from Lankford. Kelsey Smith hit a jumper and Sadie Dickinson had a jumper with 17:14 to play to make it a 20-point game.
The Wildcats' lead never dipped below 17 points the rest of the way.
Playing in their final home games as Wildcats, Smith and Miller played two of the best games of their careers. Smith finished with 22 points, nine rebounds, two assists, two steals and three blocks, while Miller had nine points, four rebounds, one assist and one block off the bench.
Marquez was phenomenal, finishing one assist short of a triple-double as she had 12 points, a career-high 14 rebounds and nine assists in the victory. Lankford had 12 points and six steals, while Dickinson had 10 points and six rebounds for the Wildcats.
ACU will face Texas A&M Commerce Wednesday at Noon to tip off the first round of the LSC tournament at the Allen event center in Allen, Texas.
Information provided by ACU athletics department.