ALLEN - A year ago, Shanae Lowrance was on the bench, inactive and unable to help Tarleton State defend its 2012 Lone Star Conference tournament championship.
But the senior worked her way back, and just more than a year after successful knee surgery, she's focused on leading the TexAnns back to the crown they won to cap her sophomore campaign.
Lowrance had 13 points in Tarleton's 84-55 LSC quarterfinal demolition of Texas A&M-Commerce Wednesday, setting up a semifinal battle with Texas Woman's at noon today at Allen Event Center. A victory means it's on to the championship, set to tipoff at 3 p.m. Saturday.
"I think we were really pumped and ready for that game, especially since we lost last Saturday," said Lowrance, recalling Talreton's 74-69 loss to the same Lion team in Commerce. "We wanted to prove that wasn't who we are. We wanted to show that we obviously came to play in this tournament."
And that's exactly what they did, with LSC Player of the Year Kiara Wright collecting her 57th career double-double and Lowrance, Brianna Bledsoe, Kathy Thomas and true freshman Ikpeaku Iwobi all scoring 11 or more points. Tarleton scored the first 12 points and never looked back, leading 50-21 at halftime.
"We're all just so excited to be here, especially those of us who are returning and already know about the conference tournament," said Lowrance. "We've been excited since we first stepped on the court, just happy and smiling, especially us seniors."
It's especially exciting for players like Lowrance, who are close to home. The LSC's second-leading shot blocker is from Rockwall, just 29 miles from the Allen Event Center.
"It's really cool," she said. "I have lots of family and friends who always come to our games, so I have a big support base anywhere I go, especially here close to home."
Lowrance also celebrated success off the court this week. A bio-medical sciences major with a 3.57 grade point average, she was named to the LSC's all-academic team.
"It just means I'm the nerd of the team," she quipped. "But it's really an honor to get any kind of recognition at the conference tournament."
Lowrance hopes to turn her academic talents into a dental career.
"I hope to get into dental school," she said. "That's the plan after basketball ends in my life."
She hopes that won't be for several more games. As the No. 3 ranked team in the South Central Region, Tarleton is a lock to be part of the 64-team NCAA Championship field when selections are announced Sunday night. Of course, they could also punch an automatic bid with two more wins this weekend.
Lowrance knows she isn't the only senior focused on leading the TexAnns back to conference supremacy and beyond. Captains Wright and Bledsoe have stood by her side throughout her Tarleton career.
"I feel like we're sisters, we really are best friends. In any situation on or off the court, we're there for each other," Lowrance said. "You never hear negative words between us, it's always uplifting. And it's not just us, it's the whole group. We're all there for each other, like a family."
A family that was there when Lowrance was suffering through a trying time after injuring her knee at rival Midwestern State in Wichita Falls on Jan. 12 of last year. A family that was also there to enjoy the biggest shot since her return.
Lowrance went on the attack from the left elbow, driving across the lane and past a defender to the right block to bank in what was ultimately the game winner in an upset of then fifth-ranked West Texas A&M. She did it on her senior night, no less, on Feb. 19 at Wisdom Gym.
"I think I'm a different player, but I don't know if it's necessarily better or worse. I think I got my quick first step back and I'm really happy about that," Lowrance said. "I just passed the one year mark since my surgery, and they said that's when I would really see a lot of improvement, and I definitely have."
A year removed surgery and a year removed from being LSC tourney champs, Lowrance is hoping to end her final year on the hardwood with a bang.
"We're all excited and can't wait for the next game," she said. "We're one win from getting back to the championship, and that's what we're working for."