Brister accounted for more than half of the Lady Buffs’ points on Saturday afternoon as she helped the team improve to 5-2 on the season. “This was a really big win for us and we’ll take it and run back to Canyon, that’s for sure,” head coach Krista Gerlich said. “I was so proud of the girls for the resiliency they showed in the last few minutes of regulation. Northeastern State had us beat, but the girls stepped up and made some big plays to force overtime, then we held them scoreless in overtime to win.”
Brister’s performance marks the eighth time in her career that she has scored 30 or more points, including her 21st perfect free throw game as she shot 11-of-11 from the charity stripe. Additionally, the Amarillo, Texas, native’s efforts proved to be her 11th double-digit free throw game of her career.
On the other side of the ball, Brister grabbed six defensive rebounds to finish tied for second on the team with fellow classmate Courtney Lee. Lee also contributed with 14 points while freshman Joni Unruh, another Amarillo, Texas, native, pulled down a team-high eight rebounds and added six points. “Joni really is playing beyond her years. I tell her all the time that she doesn’t play like a freshman.
She came back out onto the floor after starting slow and made some great plays, and that’s great when a young player does that because it tells you that the future looks really bright,” Gerlich said. The RiverHawks held the lead for much of the first half, jumping out to an 11-10 lead, but the Lady Buffs kept the score tight until Lee dished an assist to Brister, who sank a jump shot at 9:46 to put WT ahead, 12-11.
Northeastern State held strong, though, and regained the lead, taking a five-point advantage with back-to-back baskets from Jezzal Quintana. But WT would not be deterred, as Brister and sophomore Holly Isaacs drained consecutive three-pointers to swing the lead back in the Lady Buffs’ direction, 28-23 with 1:27 left in the half. NSU’s Quintana sank a shot from behind the arc with just seven seconds on the clock to pull the RiverHawks within two, but it was not enough.
Northeastern State’s tough defense in the opening stanza held junior Jamie Dreiling scoreless and without a rebound, but Isaacs and freshman Cherilyn McMenamy tallied three points apiece in addition to Lee’s six and Brister’s 16 to take WTAMU into halftime with a 28-26 advantage.
Despite Northeastern State tying the score three times in the opening minutes of the second half, West Texas A&M went on a 20-14 run to stretch the lead to eight points at 48-40 with 11:38 to play. WTAMU held at least a three-point lead throughout the period until NSU’s Jessica White made a three-pointer with just under four minutes to play, tying the game at 55 points apiece.
Another basket from behind the arc, this time from Lindsey Sams, put Northeastern State ahead, 59-56, with 1:17 left to play; however, WT went on a short 4-1 run in the final 60 seconds, including two made free throws from Lee with 52 seconds on the clock and another two from Brister with only 4.2 seconds left, to force overtime. “Who else would you want on the line in that situation? [Brister} stepped up and knocked down some big shots. She’s a terrific player, probably one of the best clutch players I’ve ever seen,” Gerlich said.
West Texas A&M turned on its defensive pressure in the overtime period, holding Northeastern State scoreless as Unruh shot 3-for-4 from the free throw line and Brister sank her 10th field goal of the day. Junior Dixie Bell added one made free throw as the game ended with WTAMU on top by a six-point margin. “A lot of people do a lot of little things that don’t show up in the stats, but they are doing a great job,” Brister said. “Having seven new people and only four returners is hard, but everyone is buying into what Coach Gerlich is teaching us and we’re just going to keep getting better.”
West Texas A&M does not play again until Dec. 28, when the team matches up against St. Thomas Aquinas at 8 p.m. as part of the South Padre Sports Tour, held at the South Padre Convention Center.
ARTICLE COURTESY: www.gobuffsgo.com