Troy Women Are Going Dancing After First Sun Belt Championship

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 13, 2016


photo by Chris Davis

photo by Chris Davis


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NEW ORLEANS – Head coach Chanda Rigby inherited a two-win program in 2012, and now just four years later the Troy women’s basketball team is the 2016 Sun Belt Tournament Champions after a 61-60 over Little Rock at Lakefront Arena on Saturday.

 Troy will make the second NCAA Tournament appearance in program history, and its first since 1997.  The NCAA Tournament field will be announced as part of ESPN’s Selection Special Show on Monday, beginning at 6 p.m. CT.  NCAA First Round games will be held on Friday and next Saturday.

 On this Saturday night, the Sun Belt championship game came down to the final two possessions, and Troy’s All-Sun Belt players came up big when they needed to.  First, the Sun Belt Championships Most Outstanding Player, Ashley Beverly Kelley, hit a pull-up jumper from the free throw line to give Troy a 61-60 lead with 21 seconds remaining.

 Little Rock elected not to call a timeout, and after dribbling out most of the clock, Monique Townson drove the left side of the lane.  That is where Caitlyn Ramirez, another all-tournament selection, helped off her assignment and swatted Townson’s attempt at a game winner as time expired.

 “At this point, I knew that this was the time to take the shot,” Beverly Kelley, Troy’s lone senior, said.  “I felt like I had to put my team on my back, and I knew that if the ball was in my hands it was going to go in. 

“I wasn’t afraid.  And if we were going to lose, it was going to be because of me, and if we won, it was going to be because of me.”

 ArJae’ Saunders, a third all-tournament selection, led Troy in scoring with 21 points on 9-of-16 shooting.  The junior guard had 15 points at halftime and kept Troy (20-12) in the game early, despite committing 11 first-half turnovers as a team.

 Beverly Kelley finished with 17 points on 5-of-15 shooting and a perfect 7-of-7 clip at the free throw line.  She also dished out a team-high three assists.  La’Tia Fils-Aime’ was Troy’s unsung hero, scoring 10 points off the bench, including the last four of the third quarter to get Troy back within two points, 49-47, with 10 minutes to go.

 Little Rock (20-12) used an 11-0 run midway through the third quarter to take a 10-point lead, 47-37, with 5:00 left.  That lead was the biggest of the game for either team, but Claresa Banks hit two big 3-pointers, just ahead of Fils-Aime’s two buckets, to squash the run.

 Those were Banks’ only six points, and the only two 3-pointers of the game for Troy, who made 12 in Friday’s semifinal win over top-seeded Arkansas State.

 “Our overall goal and theme was faith, faith was our motto,” Rigby said.  “I felt more out of sync and more out of the groove in this game than probably any game we’ve played the second half of the year.  It was a bad feeling, but the faith – we just kept saying to keep it close.

 “And of course, what happened at the end was nothing that the coaches called.  I believe it was Ashley Beverly Kelley’s faith in the end that she could get the ball in her hands and pull us ahead, and I think faith is what made Caitlyn go up for the blocked shot that sealed it in the end.”

 Troy held Little Rock to 38 percent (23-of-61) shooting overall, and despite the 2-of-14 effort from deep, hit 45 percent (23-of-51) itself.

 The Trojans will arrive back in Troy on Sunday afternoon, and fans are encouraged to meet the team when they return.  Details about that, as well as a Selection Show Viewing Party, will be released soon.

 Stay tuned to and all of Troy’s social media outlets in the coming days for news and updates on the Trojans as they get set for the NCAA Tournament.