Kira Bonner’s career-high 32 points lifted Northwestern State to its first conference win Sunday afternoon 69-60 against Houston Baptist.
Bonner’s 32 points are the most by a Northwestern State player since Nautica Grant poured in 34 exactly one year ago in a win over McNeese.
“I have to thank my teammates and coaches for believing in me and getting me the ball and believing I could do the job for them,” Bonner said.
The Lady Demons (4-8, 1-3) outscored HBU 19-8 in the final quarter to turn a two-point deficit into a nine-point victory. HBU (4-8, 0-4) lost its fifth consecutive contest after starting the season 4-3.
“The last three conference games were close losses and we didn’t get the little things done,” Bonner said. “Today, we made layups, we made plays and everyone stepped up. It feels good to get the first conference win.”
NSU was stingy on defense, forcing 25 HBU turnovers and converting them to 19 points. They also allowed the Huskies to shoot just 37.5 percent from the field, including 2-of-12 in the final period.
“There’s a lot of times the press actually hurts us and we give up easy buckets, but when we do that, it keeps some form of pressure on them for an entire game,” head coach Jordan Dupuy said.
“What that did was it caused a bit of fatigue and the shots that were going in the first three quarters were more difficult to make in the fourth. Any time we are playing at our best, it’s because of our defense and turning our defense into offense.”
The day began just the way Dupuy wanted, as Bonner drained two triples and Jasmynn Johnson added another from the left wing on three consecutive possessions and the Lady Demons jumped out to a 9-0 lead.
However, the Lady Demons went nearly eight minutes without points and the Huskies took advantage, going on an extended 20-2 run, spanning two quarters, to vault out to a 20-11 lead, their largest of the contest.
But in a half of runs, NSU fought back with 13 consecutive points to climb back in front, and the Lady Demons went to the break in front 34-33. The 13-0 run began with a triple by Bonner from the right corner, and the senior had nine of the 13 points during that run.
“Our coach always tells us it’s a game of runs,” Victoria Miller said. “In practice, we can put up 10-15 points in 30 seconds if we really go for it. He reminded us of that. He said that we needed to hit a run and we met the challenge. We had a lot of people step up to the plate and make some good plays.”
The third quarter was kind to the Huskies, as it shot 47 percent in the quarter to take a two-point lead. In the second frame, HBU took five 3-pointers and only made one. In the third, the Huskies made a concerted effort to get the ball inside and had success. HBU shot 46.7 percent in the quarter and made five free throws.
For the game, the Huskies had 32 points in the paint, compared to 20 for the Lady Demons.
NSU shot 5-of-11 in the final quarter and made eight of 10 free throws to seal the game.
“The biggest thing was finishing,” Dupuy said. “We’ve had a lot of games where we didn’t finish the job. We did that, out-rebounding them in the fourth.”
With HBU in front 56-54, Bonner scored six consecutive points to jumpstart another 13-0 run to take a two-point deficit and turn the game into an NSU victory.
The Lady Demons won the game at the free throw line, making 22 of 28 attempts. The Huskies went to the line 29 times, but only converted on 17.
Bonner was the only Lady Demon in double figures, but Johnson and Jocelyn Scott each snared seven rebounds and Lacee Savage grabbed six. Freshman Tristen Washington led NSU with four assists.
Megan Valdez-Crader played all 40 minutes and scored 23 points to lead HBU, but only scored three in the final quarter and did not make a field goal. Timia Jefferson was the other Husky in double figures with 13 and she dished out four assists, but also turned the ball over eight times.
NSU returns to the court Wednesday when it welcomes UIW to Prather Coliseum for a 6:30 tip.