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LAS VEGAS – Seattle University women’s basketball led in the final minute, but UTRGV pulled out a 56-54 decision in the first round of the 2019 Western Athletic Conference (WAC) Tournament Wednesday night. Kamira Sanders led the Redhawks with 17 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 steals at the Orleans Arena.

The Redhawks recorded a 12-0 run in the first half to take control and then jumpers by Joana Alves and Courtney Murphy made it 39-27 SU early in the third period. UTRGV responded, though, tying the game at 45 by the end of the third.

In the fourth, Alves hit a jump shot and then set up a Murphy hoop as the Redhawks grabbed a 49-47 margin with 6:27 left. SU worked defensively and made several key stops and then Olivia Crawford dribbled left and scored while being fouled at the 3:49 mark. The basket sent the Redhawk bench into pandemonium as Crawford’s ensuing free throw gave SU a 52-47 lead.

The Vaqueros on a putback, but Sanders drove and finished a layup for a 54-49 advantage with 2:37 showing on the clock. UTRGV chipped away from there, however, taking the lead with 17 seconds remaining. An SU turnover led to a Vaquero free throw and then the Redhawks’ tying shot was short, allowing UTRGV to escape with the victory.

Sanders hit 7-14 field goals on her way to a 17 points. The junior posted eight boards and five steals in 35 minutes of action. Murphy was next with nine points and five rebounds, while Madeline Dopplick added eight points and four boards in her final game at Seattle U.

SU strung together a solid first half, spreading the ball around and forcing 10 Vaquero turnovers to take an eight-point lead through 20 minutes. Dopplick opened scoring with a wing jumper and then Sanders made a steal and went in for a layup and an early 4-0 lead.

UTRGV hit a three, but Dopplick answered with another jumper. After the Vaqueros gained a 10-6 margin, Delaney McCann found Murphy for a three-ball at the 5:06 mark. Later in the frame, Carla Bieg made a move and scored on the left side to even the score at 11. UTRGV made a three-pointer, but Murphy cut and Alves hit her for a bucket. A nifty Sanders finish resulted in a three-point play and a tie at 16. McCann grabbed an offensive board and scored while being fouled in the closing seconds of the quarter. She made the ensuing foul shot for a 19-16 difference after one.

Dopplick kept the momentum going with a basket in the first minute of the second. The senior scored again to stretch the lead and then Sanders made a steal and scored on the other end, capping a 12-0 SU burst.

After the Vaqueros inched closer, Alves faced up and sank a jumper. Crawford then assisted on a Bieg trey and the duo reversed roles a minute later, with Bieg setting up a Crawford triple at the 3:50 mark. UTRGV rallied, but Sanders scored inside and the Redhawks held a 35-27 halftime lead. 

SU will have to replace graduating seniors Dopplick and McCann.