Joplin, Mo. -- Freshman guard Haley Weathers had a career night and a game-high 23 points as the Missouri Southern women's basketball team defeated Arkansas - Fort Smith, 74-68 in the finale of the 2011 Pizza Hut/Fairfield Inn Thanksgiving Classic.
Southern (4-2) held a 41-31 lead at the half and despite a furious late run by UAFS, held on to defeat the Lady Lions. Weathers was 5-5 at the half (all from behind the three-point line) and finished 8-11 from the field and 7-10 from long range for 23 points. Tatianna Washington scored 19 points and added six rebounds, while Erin Rice had ten points and five rebounds. Kelby Fritz had seven points and nine assists on the night.
Ark.-Fort Smith (3-3) was led in scoring by Vasha Sanders with 18 points, while Tashley Gaines scored 15 and Whitney Lee had 14 points and ten rebounds.
Fort Smith scored the opening bucket, but Southern stormed back and led 8-3 after a three pointer from Weathers with 16:34 left in the first half. The lead was eight after a free throw from Rice made the score 14-6 with 12:44 left in the half, but UAFS clawed back to within three (27-24) when Lyne'Jerrika Stegall nailed a three with 4:53 left to go in the first half.
A jumper from Lee got UAFS back to within four (31-27) with 2:54 left, but Southern went on an 8-0 run over the next two minutes to push the score to 41-29. A pair of three's from Weathers and buckets from Fritz and Washington hilighted the run. UAFS would hit two free-throws with 28 seconds left to make the halftime lead 41-31, Southern. Weathers led all scorers in the first half, going 5-5 from long range for 15 points.
Southern pushed its lead to 17 points twice in the second half, the last being 63-46 after a layup from Washington with 9:36 to go in the game. Fort Smith, however, answered back and made it a game as the Lady Lions went on a 20-6 run over the eight minutes and cut Southern's lead to six (72-66) with a minute to go. A pair of free throws from Larrita Gipson sealed the win for the Lions.
The Lions shot 48 percent from the field and 45 percent from long-range, while making 72 percent of their free-throws. Southern held UAFS to just 37 percent shooting from the field, but the Lady Lions made 50 percent of their three pointers and and 78 percent of their free-throws to keep the game close. The Lions held a 36-24 advantage in the paint and scored 17 points off of 20 UAFS turnovers. The Lions' bench out scored UAFS 29-14.
Both Rice and Washington were named to the All-Tournament team as Newman's Satoria Bell was named the Most Outstanding Player. Newman's Tasha Cannon was also on the All-Tournament team, as was Evangel's Kara Blankenship and UAFS Whitney Lee.