Two teams returned to the court Feb. 25 to claim the championship title for the American Southwest Conference, also known as the ASC. The Comets, who previously beat the undefeated No. 8/9 Hardin-Simmons in the semifinals, made a blazing 63-57 victory against the East Texas Baptist Tigers.
The women’s basketball team earned the program’s fifth ASC Champion title and has qualified to compete in UTD’s seventh appearance at the NCAA Division III Women’s Basketball Championship Tournament, a national competition that will be at the American Airlines Center in Texas for the first time ever. This season’s team will have the chance to be the first Texas school to place in the tournament finals at the NCAA Division III.
Head coach Joe Shotland, who has been guiding the women’s team in his first year at UTD, said he couldn’t be prouder of it. As the number one defensive team in the women’s ASC, the Comets agree that playing defense is what has led them to have such a strong team dynamic.
“I think that with this group, the sky’s the limit,” Shotland said, “You know, defense wins championships, so that’s what we’re trying to do.”
The Comets pushed the limit with an overall score of 41.7% successful field goals, 43.8% of 3-pointers and 76.2% of free-throws. This was especially highlighted in the second quarter where they made 50% of field goals and the third quarter where they made 75% of 2-pointers.
The beginning of the game was started with the Tigers making a seven-point lead for the first half of the first quarter, at which point the Comets caught up to start the second quarter with a 13-point tie. Comets turned up the heat in the second quarter, ending with a seven-point lead that peaked into a 17-point lead after halftime. The Comets stayed clear in the lead throughout the fourth quarter, unwavering in determination as senior Jordan Maxwell scored 10 points in the last three minutes of the game.
“The ball is in my hands a lot, and I’ve struggled from the free throw line this season,” Maxwell said. “So it’s kind of poetic that in the most important game to us, I’m put on the line to be able to seal the deal for our team.”
Maxwell was named the most valuable player in the ASC tournament, scoring 17 points and six turnovers in the final game. Sophomore Cierra Trigg — who was added to the All-Tournament team for her excellent 3.975 GPA in physics and performance throughout the season — proved her metal by scoring 16 points and breaking her personal best for 3-pointers scored successfully.
“It felt amazing because it was the result of all the hard work we’ve been putting in this season,” Trigg said. “All season, our coach has been talking about staying the course, and that our identity as a team is strongly centered around our defense. Well, this weekend, at some points we were down, but we just stayed the course and let our defensive intensity keep us in those games. It was also amazing that our seniors were able to become champions after working so hard all year.”
Another highlight player included sophomore Trystan Clark, who shot 12 points and made supportive highs with six rebounds, five turnovers and a career best of six steals.
The Comets held fourth place standing for the ASC after a quarterfinal match on Feb. 21 against Sul Ross, where UTD made a 62-58 overtime win after both teams tied at 52 during the final quarter buzzer.
The Comets then proceeded to the semifinals in Abilene, Texas to face off against the undefeated No. 8/9 Hardin-Simmons Cowgirls on Feb. 24. UTD made a 73-71 victory against Hardin-Simmons, coming back from the peak 10 point lead the Cowgirls established earlier in the game.
The bracket was announced on Feb. 27 on the NCAA website, where fans can begin planning their next move.