The Arkansas Pine-Bluff Lady Lions were looking for inspiration before Saturday's game against Texas Southern. Looking to break a 24-game losing streak this season. Looking to end a 36-game overall winless streak that spanned 392 days and was the longest in the nation.
The Arkansas Pine-Bluff Lady Lions were looking for inspiration before Saturday’s game against Texas Southern. Looking to break a 24-game losing streak this season. Looking to end a 36-game overall winless streak that spanned 392 days and was the longest in the nation.
With only four games left on the schedule after Saturday, the Lady Lions were running out of time.
They may have found that inspiration in the locker room as the pre-game motivational speech was given by Doug Marsh, pastor of New Mount Union Baptist Church in Junction City.
Bro. Marsh’s speech must have sparked something in the Lady Lions, including his daughter, Lakendra Marsh. The 5-foot-5 junior guard scored a game-high 16 points and helped UAPB put an end to the misery with a convincing 69-52 win over the visiting Lady Tigers, the same team the Lady Lions last defeated on Jan. 22, 2011.
UAPB never trailed in the game. As the lead grew, so did the confidence.
“Actually, I felt that confident before we left out of the locker room,” Marsh said. “My dad, I love him to death, came in and spoke to us about having faith … and believing. I feel like after we left that locker room that we actually believed.”
With that in mind, Marsh had three points in the first half on a shot from beyond the arch. She was 1-of-3 from the floor. But in the second half, with her father’s words replaying through her mind, the junior poured in 13 points as the Lady Lions maintained their distance from the Lady Tigers after leading 30-18 at the break.
“I can still hear his words,” Marsh said in the wake of the outing. “He told us to have faith in our coach, our teammates and in ourselves, everybody.”
In a game where UAPB never trailed Marsh and her teammates continued to apply pressure on the defensive end of the floor while gaining confidence on offense. Season leading scorer Chi Chi Okwumabua, who finished behind Marsh with 13 points, was powerful in the paint while Jazmyne Victorian and Jenise Gentry helped keep the Lady Lions in control with strong perimeter shooting.
Gentry poured in 13 points while Victoria finished with 10.
But it was Marsh’s performance from outside that put the Lady Lions in position to record the elusive victory. Marsh connected on 6-of-11 field goals, including a 4-of-6 outing from long range.
“I play hard every night,” Marsh said. “But having my dad there, hearing him speak, gave me that much more confidence.”
Marsh and the Lady Lions maintained their faith in each other for the duration of the game. UAPB coach Cary Shelton said it was just what his squad needed.
“We had a lot of goals,” an obviously relieved Shelton said. “But the biggest goal was to win. The girls came out and they fought. They played for 40 minutes like you want them to do. They really played their tails off and are very excited to come in here and win for our fans.”
Marsh added the atmosphere in the locker room after the game was something she had been waiting for.
“It was loud,” she said. “But I loved it. I have been waiting on this since my freshman year. It’s been rough. We have been losing quite a bit. But I feel like after this win we are going to skyrocket.”
The Lady Lions had been close to tasting victory a couple of times this year but failed to close out games down the stretch. Shelton said this time the girls refused to hold back.
“We told the girls during the whole course of the game that it’s not over until we walk down to the other end of the floor and shake their hands,” Shelton said. “There could be no stopping, no quitting. And they did that.”
As the crowd filtered in for the men’s game, one could almost feel their hesitation to get excited. The score was in UAPB’s favor at 60-40. The clock was in UAPB favor at 6:15. Yet there was still a rustle, mumbles overheard as precious seconds ticked away.
At 4 1/2 minutes, fans sat up in their seats and readjusted with a substantial lead and the Lady Lions seemingly in control. But it wasn’t until Victoria White’s jumper for the final points of the game that the Lady Lions rose to their feet off the bench as the crowd showed support with a standing ovation.
“We weren’t comfortable until it was over,” Marsh admitted. “We have been in this position before and let it slip away.”
UAPB is now 1-24 overall and 1-13 in the Southwestern Athletic Conference while Texas Southern dropped to 4-19 and 2-11. The Lady Lions will now attempt to build a winning streak when hosting Prairie View A&M (10-13, 7-5 going into Saturday) on Monday.