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Lamar women drive past the Texas A&M Corpus Christi and into the Southland championship game

For the first time in 13 years, the Lamar University women’s basketball team is playing for a spot in the NCAA tournament.

The Cardinals drove to a 65-53 win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Wednesday to secure their berth in the Southland Conference championship game. It is the first appearance in a title game for the Lamar women’s program since winning the championship in 2010.

After conceding a fourth-quarter comeback in Tuesday’s overtime win over McNeese, the Cardinals found themselves in a similar situation in Wednesday’s win. Lamar led by 14 points going into the final half, but saw that lead shrink to just 8 points at 7:02 into the game.

RELATED: Lamar advances in Southland tournament with dramatic win over McNeese

This time, however, Lamar didn’t let the lead slip away. Malay McQueen hit a clutch-3 pointer to stop the Islanders’ run and pushed the Cardinals’ lead back into double digits. Lamar’s lead stayed relatively comfortable the rest of the way en route to winning the semi-finals of the tournament.

Lamar’s defense smothered Corpus Christi and kept the Islanders 29% off the field.

“That’s what we do. That’s who we are,” head coach Aqua Franklin said of Lamar’s defense. “Teams can score against us, but they won’t score the way they want.”

McQueen and freshman guard R’Mani Taylor each scored a season-high 17 points for Lamar, but did so in different ways.

Taylor got to the foul line eight times and scored most of her goals in the paint while McQueen provided outside shooting.

Prior to Wednesday’s win, McQueen had hit double digits just once in Lamar’s last nine games.

“My team expects me to shoot the ball, so if I’m open I have to have the confidence to score,” McQueen said.

RELATED: Lamar basketball players deserve Southland superlatives

The Cardinals take on the No. 1 in southeast Louisiana in Thursday’s title game. Tip-off is scheduled for 4:00 p.m. at the Legacy Center in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

Lamar won both regular season games against Southeastern Louisiana. The Cardinals won 57-47 away in early January, followed by a 66-54 home win over the Lions on February 23.

“This is where we should be, and we have more basketball to play,” Franklin said.

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