KATY, Texas (AP) — Aaliyah Johnson had 16 points and eight rebounds, Zya Nugent added 13 points and six boards, and top-seeded Stephen F. Austin beat Sam Houston State 56-45 on Sunday in the Southland Conference championship to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006.

Stephen F. Austin (24-2) won its 19th straight games to claim its 16th Southland title, while denying Sam Houston State, and player of the year Amber Leggett, their first championship.

Freshman Avery Brittingham’s steal and fast-break layup highlighted Stephen F. Austin’s 10-2 run, spanning the third-quarter break, for a 45-34 lead.

Johnson assisted on Nugent’s corner 3-pointer — getting a friendly roll — for a 50-43 lead with 1:28 left, and Johnson converted an up-and-under move at 37.8 to regain a seven-point lead and seal it.

Sam Houston State turned it over 12 times in the second half, 17 in total, and only had 10 field-goal attempts through 14 second-half minutes.

Brittingham finished with eight points for SFA, which has only lost to Arizona State and Houston this season by a combined 11 points. The Ladyjacks edged Central Arkansas in the semifinals, aided by Nugent’s 3-pointer with 20 seconds left for a six-point lead.

Leggett, who entered with 59 points in two tournament games, scored 14 points for Sam Houston State (15-8). Faith Cook added 11 points on 3-of-15 shooting. The Bearkats held a 17-7 advantage on the offensive boards.

It was SFA’s final game in the Southland after announcing, earlier this year, it will join the Western Athletic Conference for the 2021-2022 season.


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