- Associated Press - Sunday, March 12, 2017

KATY, Texas (AP) - Maggie Proffitt had 21 points to lead top-seeded Central Arkansas to its second straight NCAA Tournament berth with a 60-35 victory over Stephen F. Austin in the Southland Conference championship on Sunday.

Proffitt shot 9 of 15 from the field as Central Arkansas shot 48 percent and outrebounded SFA 39-26.

“It feels great,” Proffitt, the tournament MVP, said. “We had a target on our back this year. To be able to win the regular season and the tournament is a better feeling.”

Taylor Baudoin added 13 points and nine rebounds, and Kierra Jordan had nine points and 13 rebounds for the Sugar Bears (26-4), who have won 17 straight games.

“To do it back-to-back says a lot about this group of young ladies,” Central Arkansas coach Sandra Rushing said. “I thought we came out and played extremely well. . The second one was a lot harder. We won the first one and people are hungry. You wonder if the players are still hungry, and they were.”

Stevi Parker had 11 points and eight rebounds, and Taylor Ross added eight points for SFA (25-7), which is still waiting for its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2006.

“We slowed down,” Ross said. “We weren’t playing our game offensively. We weren’t moving the ball as well as we normally do. We couldn’t get in the paint, and we couldn’t hit outside shots.”

The Ladyjacks struggled from the field, hitting 27 percent, including 2 of 13 from behind the arc.

“They are a really good defensive team,” SFA coach Mark Kellogg said. “We knew that coming in, and we couldn’t get any offense going whatsoever.”

Central Arkansas outscored SFA 15-4 in the third quarter, pushing the lead to 42-24 on a jumper by Olivia McWilliams late in the quarter. Brianna Mullins had six points in the run.

The Ladyjacks never got closer than 16 points the rest of the way.

“We felt like they were going to attack,” Rushing said. “They probably run their offense better than anyone in the conference. There is a lot of talent on that team, but I felt like we needed to push the ball and apply pressure to Ross. She’s their leading scorer and player of the year, so we wanted to concentrate on her.”

Central Arkansas led 27-20 at the half behind 10 points from Proffitt.

The Sugar Bears used an 11-2 first-quarter run to take a 13-9 lead on a jumper by Baudoin with 2 minutes left. Central Arkansas maintained its advantage, growing it to seven on a layup by Baudoin to end the first half.

BIG PICTURE

SFA: The Ladyjacks got off to a quick 7-2 lead but were never able to keep the momentum going. SFA shot 45 percent in the first quarter but hit 7 of 33 from the field over the final three quarters. The Ladyjacks hit 9 of 13 from the free throw line.

Central Arkansas: The Sugar Bears pressured SFA throughout, forcing 13 turnovers and converting them into 17 points. Central Arkansas was able to move the ball around getting 14 assists on 26 field goals and committed just six turnovers. The Sugar Bears will have to do better from the free throw line where they were 6 of 11.

ALL TOURNAMENT TEAM

Proffitt was joined by Baudoin, Ross, Parker and Texas A&M-Corpus; Christi’s Kassie Jones on the all-tournament team.

TITLE DROUGHT

Stephen F. Austin was playing in its 21st conference championship game, tops of any team in the Southland Conference. Since winning the tournament title in 2006, the Ladyjacks have been to the championship game four times, including three times since in the last six years.

UP NEXT

SFA: Will wait for a postseason invite.

Central Arkansas: NCAA Tournament pairings will be announced Monday.

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