KATY, Texas -- Lamar is heading to its first NCAA tournament appearance since 1991 and just the second in school history.
Darika Hill had 22 points and 11 rebounds, and top-seeded Lamar (26-7) cruised to an 86-59 victory over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in the Southland Conference tournament championship Friday night. The Lady Cardinals won the tournament title for the first time in their second try.
"This is the first time since 1991 that Lamar has been in any postseason basketball play," coach Larry Tidwell said. "We're very, very proud of that."
The Lady Cardinals built a big lead in the first few minutes and were up by 21 in the second half before a run by the Islanders pulled them within nine points. Lamar responded with a 12-6 run, fueled by a pair of 3-pointers, to fight off the rally and dominated in the last few minutes for the win.
"It was a time where we said: 'OK we're not going to let this get away," Tidwell said of the Islanders' comeback attempt.
Elisa Beagle was one of three players with 11 points and she had 14 rebounds for Corpus Christi (22-10, 12-5).
Kalis Loyd added 18 points for Lamar, Ashley Crawford had 15 and conference player of the year Jenna Plumley added 13 points, 12 assists and five steals.
The Lady Cardinals were helped by their 3-point shooting. Lamar made 10 3-pointers and Hill was 4 for 4. Plumley made three from long-range to extend her conference record for 3-pointers to 107.
Hill was named the tournament's most valuable player.
"I just really wanted to win," she said. "I knew I had to hit my shots so we could win this championship."
Corpus Christi made just three of its 21 3-point attempts and shot just 30 percent overall while Lamar hit 48 percent of its shots.
"We played as a team," Tidwell said. "We were very pleased. We attacked, we attacked, we attacked."
The Islanders trailed by 21 points before going on a 16-4 run to pull to 52-43 with 11 minutes left. Corpus Christi had three steals in that span and took advantage as the Lady Cardinals struggled with their shooting for a few minutes.
Aside from that spurt, the Islanders couldn't keep pace with Lamar's speed and energy. They often looked tired as the Lady Cardinals raced down the court.
"I thought their athleticism and their speed hurt us the whole game," Corpus Christi coach Robert Robinson said. "They came ready to go."
The Islanders were encouraged by getting to the final after being picked to finish near the bottom of the league.
"I'm going to take a lot from it," Beagle said. "It didn't end the way we wanted but I think our team made a good run."
It was the first trip to the title game for the third-seeded Islanders and Lamar's second appearance after losing in 2008.
Lamar led by one point before going on a 10-0 run, highlighted by a pair of 3-pointers, to push the lead to 20-9 about 11 minutes before halftime. The Lady Cardinals' lead was still 11 a few minutes later before they scored eight straight points to make it 36-17 with four minutes left in the first half. Plumley had a layup, a steal and two assists in that span.
Lamar led 42-27 at halftime.