Box Score | Photo GalleryKATY, Texas – With a trip to the Southland Conference Women’s Basketball Tournament semifinals on the line, Cassidy Barrios showed why she was named the Southland Player of the Year. Barrios scored eight of her 22 points in the fourth quarter as No. 4 Nicholls outlasted No. 5 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in a 61-59 nail biter that sends the Colonels (17-13) into the semifinals for the first time in program history. They will meet top seed Lamar on Saturday at 1 p.m. CT. “I just decided we weren’t going to lose this game,” said Barrios, who added 12 rebounds and denied the Islanders’ (19-12) Dae Dae Evans a chance to put up a potential game-tying attempt as the final horn sounded. “It was a hard-fought team win, a total team effort and we just pulled through.” The Colonels took their biggest lead of the day at 45-36 with 3:33 in the third but the Islanders stormed back with a 10-1 run that featured a pair of baskets from Tiara Matthews while Mbamalu added a basket before drilling a three-pointer that tied the score at 46 entering the fourth quarter. A&M-Corpus Christi’s comeback was helped by better ballhandling as the Islanders, who committed 14 turnovers in the first half, had just two in the third. In a game dominated by defense and runs from both teams, it was Barrios’ layup with 2:56 remaining that snapped a 52-52 tie and gave Nicholls the lead for good. Free throws from Barrios and Marina Lilly helped extend the margin to 58-54 but the Islanders moved within a point following Emma Young’s basket with 13 seconds left. “The more disruptive we are on defense, that can really creative a whole lot of offense for us,” said Nicholls coach DoBee Plaisance. “We’re in our element when we are forcing turnovers and converting them. Our defense really motivates us.” Nicholls lost 76-61 to Lamar on Jan. 24, the only regular season meeting between the two. “I thought we executed the things we have to execute to win close basketball games,” said Islanders coach Royce Chadwick, “but you need a break or two here and there. It didn’t happen for us.” The Colonels were able to hang on to victory despite being outrebounded by a 55-38 margin. Corpus Christi had 25 offensive rebounds yet managed only 14 free throw attempts. Nicholls’ attack-style defense made up for their rebounding as they converted 20 Islanders turnovers into 30 points. The Colonels also did a solid job in containing Mbamalu, who scored 18 points but was held to just 6-for-16 shooting. Mbamalu had just one trey in the second half as Nicholls used a variety of zone defenses to deny the second team all-conference standout an opportunity to dictate the way she did in Wednesday’s victory over McNeese. Held to just one basket in the first quarter, Barrios found her stride in the second. After Lilly’s layup gave the Colonels a 23-22 lead, Barrios knocked down a trey, shot a pair of free throws and added another jumper that helped Nicholls take a 30-22 advantage with 3:49 before intermission. Turnovers plagued the Islanders, who went nearly five minutes without a point until Kre’Ana Henry’s basket with 2:47 left in the half. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi jumped out to an early 14-4 lead yet Nicholls closed out the first quarter with a run that brought them within 18-14 following the opening 10 minutes of play. Henry’s basket helped revive A&M-Corpus Christi, which pulled within 35-32 on Brittany Mbamalu’s third trey of the half with 22 seconds remaining but Barrios hit one of her two free throws to allow Nicholls to take a 36-32 lead at the midway point of play.
Brent Sass takes a moment with his dogs. The Eureka musher was disqualified from the 2015 Iditarod Tuesday night. (Photo by Emily Schwing)Travelling a thousand miles by dog team can be exciting, but many of those miles can also be repetitive, so many mushers carry iPods stocked with music, audio books, and even movies.When he pulled into Manley, Brent Sass joked about what was on his iPod this year.“A friend gave me their entire music collection, so I have no idea,” Sass said. “That’s the beauty of it: all brand new music.”Sass likes to listen to movies on his iPod as he travels down the trail.“I have Karate Kid, I’m pretty stoked about that and what else do I have on there?” he said. “The Big Lebowski is always a favorite and what else do I have on there? I have Dumb and Dumber Too, just because. I got some high quality stuff!”Sass was disqualified from this year’s race because his iPod is equipped with two-way communication capabilities. Race Marshall Mark Nordman says he knows there are other mushers on the trail with similar devices, but the race does not plan to search sled bags.It’s unclear what kind of iPod Kelly Maixner is carrying, but he says he filled it with audio books for his trip down the Iditarod trail.Maixner: “I just was working on American Sniper.”Emily: “Did you see the movie?”Maixner: “I haven’t seen it, from the book though, I think that movie would be rather exciting. What else? I have Game of Thrones series.”Emily: “Do you watch that TV show?”Maixner: “I do watch the TV show.”Emily: “So how does it compare?”Maixner: “I haven’t started that yet…. And Ender’s Game and Gone Girl, but I haven’t seen that movie yet either.”But Hugh Neff is one musher who doesn’t like to listen to anything when he’s moving down the trail. But with so many miles to travel down the Yukon River this year, Neff said he was worried about getting bored.“To tell you the truth, I am a little bit worried about that,” Neff said. “It’s going to be interesting. it’s going to be a fast race, but it’s going to be a monotonous. In some respects and the river here is so different compared to the Quest, too. The Quest is just more jumbly and more scenic in some respects too.”Martin Buser says he knows the trail will have its moments, but he stops short of calling it ‘boring.’“Well, boring is only for boring people,” he said. We don’t let people use that word. We raised our kids and they were never allowed to say the b-word, and the b-word was boring.”Even so, Buser says he has an iPod filled with music from his genre of choice: classic rock.