Champions at last: Trojans win first Sun Belt Conference regular season championship

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For the first time in program history, the women’s basketball team has won the regular-season championship in the Sun Belt Conference.

The Trojans earned a program record 25 wins this season and posted a staggering 16-2 record in Sun Belt Conference play.

“Our players wanted to bring a championship to Troy so bad,” Head Coach Chanda Rigby said. “We’ve talked about it, dreamed about it and prayed for it every single day, and it’s so great to see goals like this come to fruition.”

The Trojans headed into the weekend tied with Coastal Carolina for the top spot. An App State upset over the Chanticleers opened the door for the team on Saturday.

A win over Arkansas State tonight sealed the victory.

The Trojans were coming off a double-digit, Thursday-night victory over the Little Rock Trojans, who have won the past two conference tournaments.

Before Saturday’s matchup, Rigby said the team was focused despite three-consecutive road games and the high stakes of the moment.

“I appreciate all the people that have followed up and listened to us and watched us get to a feel how difficult it was to win these three games on the road, especially with all these teams on their senior nights,” Rigby said. “I am just so proud of the team, and I am so proud of my assistant coaches.

“I’m thankful for our administration, and I am thankful for our fans.”

Trojans started slowly to open the game, falling 10-0 to the Red Wolves early.

In the first quarter, the team shot seven for 23, about 30% from the field. Five of those were 3-pointers, and the team also made five shots from the charity stripe.

The Red Wolves shot about 41% and held a one-point lead at the end of the first frame.

The second quarter was not much better for the Trojans, as they shot just 30% and missed all six of their 3-point shots.

Defense was key as they held the Red Wolves to just six field goals and only four shots from the free-throw line.

The Trojans headed to the locker room with a one-point lead and one half away from a title.

Coming out of halftime, the Trojans had a 49-point second half led by forward Japonica James and her fellow seniors, who scored 31 of those points.

James had zero points at the half, but the senior contributed 14 points in the final two quarters.

The Trojans headed into the fourth quarter down by a single point, but they used an efficient final frame to pull away from the Red Wolves.

The team shot 10 for 17 from the field for its best quarter of shooting for the game. Senior guard Kayla Robinson scored the lone 3-pointer of the quarter for the Trojans.

Robinson scored seven points in the second half and 11 overall for the game.

Fellow guard Jasmine Robinson led all scorers with 16 points. She paced all Trojans with three 3-point shots made on the night.

The Trojans ended up at the free-throw line 17 times in the final frame, converting nine of the shots. The shots helped the Trojans maintain the lead late in the game and defend any comeback.

Junior forward recorded her ninth double-double of the game, pulling down 13 rebounds and putting up 14 points in 24 minutes.

The Trojans will enter the Sun Belt Conference Tournament next week as the No. 1 seed.
Being a top-two seed guarantees the Trojans will at least make the semifinals of the tournament.

The Trojans will play on March 14, and if they win, they’ll play in the tournament championship on March 15. The winner is guaranteed a bid to the NCAA Tournament.

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