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Women's basketball: Pioneers earn first conference win

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TWU sports information

Grace Mitchell nailed a jumper in the lane on a shovel pass from Whitney Apari with six seconds remaining to give TWU a 50-48 win over Texas A&M-Kingsville for the Pioneers' first Lone Star Conference victory Saturday at Kitty Magee Arena.

It was Mitchell's second game winner versus the Javelinas, as she secured a TWU victory in their last matchup during the 2016-17 season. Apari posted career highs with 16 points and eight rebounds, and Alexis Nezianya tallied her fourth double-double on the season with 10 points and 11 rebounds.

A three-point play by A&M-Kingsville with 3:17 left tied the contest at 47 before Apari put TWU up on a free throw with just under three minutes to play. KJ Stastny secured a steal on the other end of the floor, but the Pioneers were unable to convert offensively.

The Javelinas were fouled and sank one free throw for a 48-all tie with 52 seconds left. Stastny again stole the ball, and TWU coach Beth Jillson called timeout with 30 seconds left.

The Pioneers ran the clock down until Apari found an open Mitchell in the center of the lane for a 50-48 lead. The Javelinas used a timeout to advance the ball to halfcourt, but their play broke when the ball rolled off of the heel of the Javelina point guard. Kingsville then was whistled for a foul to secure the TWU victory.

It took a bit for the Pioneer offense to get started early on, as it took nearly three minutes before Statsny hit a free throw for the first TWU point. With 1:44 to go in the quarter, Apari made one from the line and made a fastbreak layup. Desiree Phipps nailed a 3-pointer from the top of the key for a 16-13 lead.

The Pioneers stretched their lead to 30-19 on a step-back 3 from the left wing by Cienna Rodriguez midway through the third. Nezianya made a shot in the lane to put the Pioneers ahead 32-23 before Kingsville closed within five heading to the fourth.

"Our defensive effort and intensity were a big key for us today," Jillson said. "Our seniors led the way, especially Whitney, who came in and gave us a huge spark off of the bench."

The Pioneers (4-3, 1-1 LSC) visit No. 5 West Texas A&M at 5:30 p.m. Thursday.