Battle of heavyweights: Trojans fall to in-state rival UAB 93-89 in WNIT opener

Published 10:26 pm Thursday, March 21, 2019

The Trojans fell to Alabama Birmingham 93-89 on Thursday night In front of a record crowd inside Trojan Arena in the opening round of the WNIT.

The Trojans led by seven points in the final three minutes of the fourth quarter, but a late run lifted the Blazers to the victory.

“Just as heartbroken as I am, I’m equally as proud,” said Troy head coach Chanda Rigby. “The team showed so much fight. This was a great game for women’s basketball in general. There were relatively low mistakes, good shooting and 100 percent effort. I am heartbroken the season has come to an end for my team, who I love dearly.”

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A total of 2,451 fans witnessed Troy women’s basketball’s first home postseason game in program history.

“I am thankful for the Trojan fans,” Rigby said. “I don’t think one person left Trojan Arena not happy to be a Trojan even though we did not win.”

The Trojans held an 84-77 on the tail end of a 7-0 Troy run. The Blazers responded with an 11-0 run of their own to give them a lead with 1:51 remaining in the game. The Trojans had an opportunity to tie with under 30 seconds remaining, but the Blazers held on and made their free throws to clinch the win.

There were a total of 26 lead changes in the game along with 10 ties on Thursday night. Neither team led by more than seven.

“One thing we did not do well is hold the lead,” Rigby said. “We kept battling back and forth, ping ponging the lead back and forth. There were a lot of lead changes and that is something we struggled with all year. We never did get a handle on holding that lead and that is something I would want to start next season working on.”

There were 18 lead changes in the opening half. Neither team led by more than five points in the opening 20 minutes.

There were a total of 85 shots taken between the two teams in the first half. The teams combined to shoot 47 percent.

The Blazers opened the game making their first six shots to gain the early advantage. After the Blazers led for the first four minutes of the contest, the Trojans took their first lead at 15-14 with 4:35 remaining. The Trojans held the lead until the Blazers went on a 7-0 run to go back on top.

The Trojans went into the second quarter trailing by one at 25-24 after the Blazers shot 58 percent in the opening 10 minutes.

Both teams traded the lead back and forth in the second quarter. Neither team led by more than three in the second and the Blazers went into the half holding a slim 49-48 lead.

Jasmine LeBlanc led the Trojans with 15 points, while Kayla Robinson had 12.

The two teams continued to go back and forth in the third quarter. The lead changed seven more times in the third quarter. The Trojans, led by Japonica James took their first lead of the second half at 56-55. The Trojans led by as many as six points in the quarter, before the Blazers finished out the quarter on an 8-2 run. The game went into the fourth quarter tied at 68.

LeBlanc led all Trojan scorers with 23 points and eight rebounds. Kayla Robinson added 19 points, Japonica James had 16 and Amber Rivers had 11.

The Trojans will replace just two seniors in Amahni Upshaw and Sky’Lynn Holmes and for coach Rigby, the future looks bright.

“It’s a lot to build on,” Rigby said. “It’s a lot of promise, it’s a lot of hopes. I want to wipe away all the tears and move forward with this program. We will back on the recruiting trail as of next week.”