Troy women win second straight conference title

(CONTRIBUTED/ Brad Kemp)
(CONTRIBUTED/ Brad Kemp)
Head Coach Chanda Rigby's Trojans won their second consecutive Sun Belt Conference Championship, defeating Louisiana 78-64 in Lakefront Arena on Sunday night. As a result of the win, Troy will automatically receive an invite to the NCAA tournament for the second straight year as well.
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Scott Watkins

Staff Writer

The Troy Trojan women’s basketball team are Sun Belt Champions for the second consecutive year and will be making a return trip to the big dance after taking down Louisiana 78-64.

Troy’s championship journey in New Orleans opened with a record-breaking 105-72 win over Arkansas State in which the Trojans grabbed a Sun Belt-record 86 rebounds. Troy then got its revenge over Texas-Arlington with a dominant 88-59 victory to advance to the championship game.

The title game was a defensive battle from the start. It took just over three minutes for Troy to get on the board before senior Claresa Banks knocked down a free throw.

A moment later, Banks hit a three to give the Trojans their first lead of the game. After falling behind 12-9 near the end of the quarter, Banks hit another three to tie the game.

The two teams then traded free throws and Troy entered the second quarter with a 14-13 lead. Banks had nine points in the quarter and finished with 14 for the game.

Troy jumped out of the gate in the second with a 6-0 run to extend its lead to 20-13. All-Sun Belt first team selection Caitlyn Ramirez found herself in foul trouble early and had to be benched for 13 minutes in the first half, including the entire second quarter.

Senior forward Kristen Emerson stepped up in Ramirez’s absence, registering two points and four rebounds in six minutes during the second quarter.

The Trojans maintained their lead throughout the quarter while holding the Ragin’ Cajuns to 21 percent shooting from the field and went into the half with a 36-30 lead.

Troy’s lead hovered around eight points in the third quarter until Louisiana guard Jaylyn Gordon, who played all 40 minutes, scored six points in the final minutes to cut the Trojans’ lead to 53-49 heading into the final quarter.

Back-to-back jumpers from Cajun guard Troi Swain early in the quarter brought Louisiana within three. Troy responded with a pair of threes from Amanda Mendoza and Kayla Robinson.

The Trojans put the game on ice with six made free throws and two forced turnovers in the final minute.

Troy will find out who and where it will play in the NCAA tournament during Monday’s tournament selection show on ESPN.