BIRMINGHAM, Ala -- The Southern University Jaguars returns to the 'Big Dance' after defeating the #4 Jackson State University Lady Tigers, 45-41 in the 2019 Southwestern Athletic Conference Tournament, Saturday afternoon at the Bill Harris Arena.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala -- The Southern University Jaguars returns to the 'Big Dance' after defeating the #4 Jackson State University Lady Tigers, 45-41 in the 2019 Southwestern Athletic Conference Tournament, Saturday afternoon at the Bill Harris Arena.

In the battle of defenses, the Jaguars were able to keep the Lady Tigers from making any significant runs, stifling Jackson State perimeter shooting holding them to 0-for-13 from beyond the arc.

Alyric Scott was the lightning rod for the Jaguars recording a game high14 points and a season-high 15 rebounds, her third double-double of the season, while Courtney Parsons added nine points, seven assists, and six rebounds. Scott and Parson were named to the 2019 SWAC All-Tournament team, Scott was named Tournament MVP.

This is the first championship for Southern since 2010, and coach Carlos Funchess is the first coach since Cynthia Cooper-Dyke to guide a SWAC team to the tournament title in his or her first year on the sidelines.

A close one from the opening tip, Christina Ellis carried the Jackson State offense early, matching Southern point for point on her own during the first quarter. In the second, the Jaguars turned things around behind back-to-back layups by Taneara Moore that brought them within two.

With Jackson State slogging through a five-minute drought without a field goal, Jaden Towner tied the game at 14 with a corner jumper. Kaisah Lucky broke the Lady Tigers’ cold snap with a shot, but Courtney Parsons snapped a three-minute scoreless streak for the Jaguars with a make of her own.

After a Marneisha Hamer layup rattled out, Parsons converted on the other end to put Southern ahead with 55 seconds left before the break. The Jaguars closed the half on a 6-0 run, taking a 20-16 lead into intermission.

Jackson State Lucky gave the Lady Tigers their first lead since the second period on two free throws but Scott hit an easy layup on the ensuing possession to help Southern regain the lead before Courtney Parson hit the only other 3-pointer of the game to give Southern a four-point lead with two minutes remaining.

Southern continued to stay a step ahead of Jackson State as the third quarter progressed thanks to the play of 2019 Tournament Most Valuable Player Alyric Scott, with the Jaguars cashing in on interior opportunities.

The Jaguars shot only 33 percent for the game but held the Lady Tigers to only 27 percent while forcing 15 turnovers and winning the rebounding edge 43-42

Southern split the regular-season series with the Lady Tigers but earned its fifth conference tournament title with Saturday’s victory and will make its first appearance in the NCAA tournament since the 2009-2010 season.

Southern’s Skylar O’Bear knocked down a three to put the Jaguars up 36-33, and Taylor Lattimore cut the JSU deficit to one with a perfect trip to the line. Lucky followed suit to put Jackson State ahead, but Scott answered on the other end for Southern. Parsons drained a trey to increase the Jaguars’ lead to 41-37, but Hamer answered with a jumper to put the Lady Tigers back within one possession.

Scott again converted from close to make the contest 43-39 with 1:02 left, and though Ellis made a pair of free throws to bring JSU back within a basket, Brittany Rose found Rishonti Cowart alone on the other end, who cashed in on a point-blank layup to keep the Jaguars ahead, as Jackson State was unable to convert on several chances in the final seconds.

Funchess, a 13-year assistant under Sandy Pugh, was named the SWAC Coach of the Year after leading the Jaguars to a second straight regular season title in his first season at the helm of the program. He is also the first head coach to win the SWAC tournament title in his or her inaugural season since former Prairie View A&M coach and Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer Cynthia Cooper-Dyke did it during the 2006-2007 season.

All-Tournament Team
Shakyla Hill, Grambling State
Alyric Scott, Southern (Tournament MVP)
Courtney Parsons, Southern
Marneisha Hamer, Jackson State
Christina Ellis, Jackson State