SLU Lady Lions aiming for first SLC Tourney win to punch ticket to ‘Big Dance’

Published: Mar. 9, 2023 at 6:29 AM CST|Updated: Mar. 9, 2023 at 11:03 AM CST
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LAKE CHARLES, La. (WVUE) - After turning in the best record in the Southland Conference (20-9), the Southeastern Louisiana Lady Lions are on the verge of making history.

At the Legacy Center in Lake Charles, the top-seeded Lady Lions will face Lamar (20-11) Thursday, March 9 at 4 p.m. on ESPNU for the SLC Tournament Championship. If the Lady Lions get the win, it will be the program’s first-ever conference tournament championship win and their first automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament in program history.

If the Lady Lions fall to Lamar, they have already qualified for an automatic bid to the Women’s NIT.

Southeastern earned their way to the Southland title game in dramatic fashion as Ponchatoula native Hailey Giaratana banked in the game-winner with 0.4 seconds left in overtime, handing Texas A&M-Commerce a 60-58 defeat in Wednesday’s semifinals. The junior guard is the team’s leading scorer, averaging 12.3 ppg.

Junior guard Hailey Giaratana leads Southeastern Louisiana in scoring, averaging 12.3 ppg.
Junior guard Hailey Giaratana leads Southeastern Louisiana in scoring, averaging 12.3 ppg.(SLU Sports info)

Albany native Natalie Kelly leads the Lady Lions in rebounding with an average of 8.8 ppg. Kelly’s parents Jerry And Dandra Kelly both played hoops for Southeastern in the early 1980s.

In the post-game press conference following their most recent semifinal win, head coach Ayla Guzzardo highlighted that the team’s historic run couldn’t be done without the local talent that was recruited to the roster, many of which are from Livingston and Tangiphoa Parish, where Southeastern is located in Hammond.

“I’m from Hammond and these two are both from within 15 minutes of campus … both Ponchatoula and Amite.” Guzzardo said with Giaratana to her right and Amite native Jalencia Pierre sitting to her left.

Guzzardo is in her fifth season as head coach at Southeastern. She was a member of the Akron coaching staff after playing there in college. She played out her high school career at St. Thomas Aquinas in Hammond.

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