KATY – More than two months had passed since Sam Houston State endured a 20-point loss at the hands of Northwestern State. On Saturday, the Bearkats showed the two-time defending Southland Conference Women’s Basketball Tournament champions how far along they had come since Jan. 4.

Bearkat senior center Angela Beadle recorded her ninth straight double-double as seventh-seeded Sam Houston State stunned second-seeded Northwestern State 78-71 at Merrell Center. The win propels the Bearkats to today’s tournament final against top-seeded Central Arkansas for a chance to win the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Beadle scored 26 points and added 10 rebounds after shaking off early foul trouble, while becoming the focal point of a Sam Houston State offense that shot 65.2 percent from the field in the second half.

“When I first came out, I was really frustrated,” said Beadle, who is one of three current players who were a part of the Bearkats’ first team to reach the tournament championship game. “You never want to take yourself out of the game, but my teammates really stepped up. That’s what a good team does. When one player’s not producing, the bench comes in and gets the job done.”

“We had to feed the Beadle,” Bearkats coach Brenda Nichols said. “We had to make the effort to go inside. They weren’t letting our guards shoot outside, and I just kept telling them, ‘Feed her.’ She’ll take it and go with it.”

Jasmine Anderson was the one player off the Sam Houston State bench to fill in for Beadle, as she scored eight points, including a 3-pointer with 3:37 to go in the first half that gave the Bearkats a 23-21 lead they would not relinquish.

The win was the latest in what has become an opportunity for Sam Houston State (14-17) to redeem itself from regular-season defeats to Nicholls and Stephen F. Austin prior to Saturday’s bounce-back from the 69-49 loss to the Lady Demons.

“That was just another one that we needed to show that we’re a better team than what we were at the start of the season,” Nichols said.

Northwestern State (19-11) shot just 31 percent in the first half, but the Lady Demons began to find their range in the third quarter, pulling to within 42-38 on Beatrice Attura’s 3-pointer with 5:47 left. Undaunted, the Bearkats stretched the lead to much as 11 points late in the quarter before another Attura trey brought Northwestern State back to shouting distance at 51-45.

The distance grew further for the Lady Demons, as Sam Houston State’s Laurynn McGowen knocked down a 3-pointer as the horn sounded, giving the Bearkats a 54-45 advantage that swelled to 61-47 with 7:47 remaining.

The Lady Demons put together their best offensive stretch of the night, as first-team all-conference pick Janelle Perez willed Northwestern State back into the contest. Perez, who finished with 30 points on the day, scored 14 of the Lady Demons’ next 17 points over a stretch of 4:22, which she capped with a traditional three-point play that cut the deficit to 67-64 with 2:22 left.

“We continued to fight,” Northwestern State co-coach Brooke Stoehr said. “It wasn’t our best day. I’m very happy to be walking out of here with this group.”

Northwestern State’s comeback attempt finally ran out of steam, as Sam Houston State scored nine of their final 11 points from the charity stripe.

Stoehr felt that her team stood a good chance to receive an invitation to participate in a postseason tournament, a fate the Lady Demons will not know until Monday night.

Sam Houston State lost both of their regular season meetings against Central Arkansas, losing 73-63 in Huntsville on Feb. 20 before falling on the road by a 72-53 count on Feb. 24.

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