WOMEN’S COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Seniors Taito, Peevy recognized as UTPB bows out in finale with Texas A&M-Commerce

The UTPB women’s basketball team bowed out with a 78-69 loss to Texas A&M-Commerce in the Falcons’ season finale Saturday afternoon in the Falcon Dome.

UTPB played solid throughout the game and led by four points going into the fourth quarter, but the Falcons ran into a dry spell at the wrong time in the final frame, while Commerce pulled away to escape with the victory.

Commerce is set to take the fourth seed into the Lone Star Conference tournament this weekend, after finishing the regular season at 20-8 overall and 14-6 in league play. UTPB’s season ended Saturday at 7-20, 3-17.

After trailing by one at the halftime break, UTPB used a big third quarter to take a 58-54 lead into the fourth. But Commerce outscored UTPB 24-11 in the fourth to pull away.

“That’s a really good team. That’s their 20th win,” UTPB head coach Jerome Willis said. “We played well. We just didn’t finish the job.”

Senior Niva Taito helped lead the Falcons with 16 points in her final game as a Falcon.

Briana Caro added 16 while Heather Crittenden scored 14.

Taito’s fellow senior Jau’nae Peevy scored three points and hauled in six rebounds in her Falcons finale.

“They’re great people, great student-athletes,” Willis said of the departing Taito and Peevy. “They’re the true meaning of ‘student-athletes’ — terrific in the classroom, terrific off the floor. They’ve been a joy. It’s going to be different without them next year.”

Taito ends her career as one of the most accomplished guards in program history. She was the Falcons’ second-leading scorer this season, averaging 12.7 points per game, after scoring a team-best 13.1 points per game last year as a junior.

“It’s surreal right now,” Taito said after the game. “I feel like it’s really not my last game. I feel like I’m going to go to practice tomorrow and still play again.”

Both Peevy and Taito were recognized by teammates and fans on Senior Night.

“It was a tough season, but I really enjoyed playing with the people that I played with and I really enjoyed being coached by my coaches,” Peevy said. “I had a lot of good experiences this year. Of course, we went through some adversity but at the end of the day I think it shaped me into a better person. All in all, it was good.”

The Falcons struggled in their first season as part of the Lone Star Conference this season — moving into one of the best-funded leagues on the NCAA’s Division II.

But Taito expects the Falcons to show improvement next season.

“Everybody in that locker room has something to bring to the table. They’ve all got talent,” Taito said. “I know that this year didn’t go well, but next year, they’re definitely going to learn from this as a humbling experience — and won’t let it happen again. I’m sure of that.

“I did have fun and I don’t regret anything at all.”