SNU Back in the Winners Circle

BETHANY, Okla.  — This exact same time last year, Southern Nazarene watched Oklahoma City University cut down the nets inside the Sawyer Center and as expected a fire was ignited. Almost 365 days to the moment, the fire still burns as SNU brought home the program’s ninth Sooner Athletic Conference Tournament title with a 52-48 win over Rogers State. 

“You can’t win games in the postseason if you don’t have your role players step up and everyone we needed to play well did,” said SNU Head Coach Lori Carter. “The way we have played lately really reminds me of the 2004 team where someone different led us every night. This team has that same capability.” 

While SNU has had different people step up at different times the past three days, no one has been more dominant than Sharmeda Johnson who averaged 17.3 points per game and scored a game-high 19 points and pulled down 10 rebounds for her seventh double-double of the season. The junior forward was named the SAC Tournament MVP while Abbey Marra and Logan Martin were both named to the SAC All-Tournament. 

“Sharmeda has just been huge for us these past couple weeks,” said Carter. “People have been doubling Abbey and she has earned that with what she has done this year, but Sharmeda can be just as dominating in the paint. I’ve been hard on her all year and our team knows that. She needs to bring that blue collar, ‘I’m going to do the dirty work,’ mentality to the floor every night. Sharmeda deserved that honor and I am proud of her for it.” 

Eight different Storm got in the book as Johnson was the only one in double figures, but SNU got eight points and 10 rebounds out of Marra and seven points each out of Oumoul Thiam and Kristen Milster. 

SNU again was held to a low percentage from outside hitting just three 3-pointers, but much like the semifinals, SNU rarely missed from the line. The Storm went 11-for-13 from the charity stripe, and were 9-for-11 in the second half. 

Neither team led by more than seven points at any point in time in the entire game as there were eight lead changes in the first half alone. The Storm picked up momentum heading into the second half with an 8-1 run to take a 26-21 lead at intermission. SNU stretched it to 28-21 out of the gate in the second half, but the Storm didn’t give up the lead until the 2:06 mark when Roger State’s Hunter Peterson buried a trey to give the Hillcats a 42-41 lead. 

SNU went right back to where it had the past two weeks in Johnson, Marra and Martin. Johnson gave the Storm the lead for good with a traditional 3-point play before Marra sank a bucket in the paint before Martin hit two free throws with 29 seconds left, but RSU didn’t go away. After Oumoul Thiam hit a pair at the line to give SNU a 50-45 lead with 19 seconds left, but Angie Criner nailed a try to make it 50-48 game with just 15 seconds left. 

Marsha Durr through put the game on ice with two more free throws and the celebration was on.

“We’ve been in that situation several times this year and there was no panic on any of our faces,” said Carter. “That’s something we talked about earlier in the year; focus on the defensive end especially in close games and we have and found ways to win.” 

It was the first SAC Tournament Championship for SNU since 2007. The Storm now get set to head to Jackson, Tenn., for the NAIA Women’s Basketball National Tournament, March 16-22.

-SNU Athletics

Southern Nazarene University's mission is to transform lives through higher education in Christ-centered community. As a Christian community of scholars, we model the hospitality of grace, the pursuit of truth and the practice of discipleship, all within the Wesleyan-holiness tradition, as we prepare graduates who THINK with clarity, ACT with integrity and SERVE with purpose.