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McNeese State wins Southland Conference tournament

Twin sisters Ashlyn and Caitlyn Baggett combined for 38 points to lead McNeese State to a 71-50 win over Central Arkansas in the Southland Conference tournament championship on Friday night, giving the team its first NCAA tournament berth.

Ashlyn scored 23 and Caitlyn added 15 with six assists as McNeese State (26-6) won its 12th straight game. The Cowgirls haven't lost since Central Arkansas beat them 74-73 in overtime on Jan. 29.

McNeese State was up by 11 points at halftime and opened the second half with a 14-3 spurt to extend its lead to 51-29 with 15 minutes remaining.

Megan Herbert and Courtney Duever each scored 13 points for Central Arkansas (21-11), which is in its first season of postseason eligibility since making the transition from Division II.

McNeese State, which also won the regular-season conference title, did a good job of slowing down Herbert, the Southland player of the year. She had just four points after halftime and finished with six rebounds, well below her average of 10.9, before fouling out with about 3 minutes remaining.

Desiree Rogers added nine points for Central Arkansas, which snapped a six-game win streak.

McNeese State had an outstanding offensive performance and finished the night shooting almost 55 percent. The Cowgirls also dominated the boards, outrebounding Central Arkansas 34-24 thanks to 13 rebounds by Kendra Wells.

The Cowgirls have won 19 of their last 20 games, and the victory extends the school record for most wins in a season. Their only other trip to the conference tournament championship game came in 1983, when they lost to Louisiana-Monroe 94-81.

Central Arkansas reached the title game by defeating 2010 conference tournament champion Lamar in overtime. McNeese State beat Texas-San Antonio in the semifinals.

McNeese State was up by 10 points with 4 minutes remaining in the first half before Central Arkansas scored five straight points to cut the lead to 30-25. The Cowgirls answered with a 7-1 run, with Caitlyn Baggett scoring all the points, to take a 37-26 lead into halftime.