April 3, 2023
LSU’s Last-Tear Poa enjoys familiar feeling of winning national championship
The junior-college national champion came to LSU to win big. On Sunday, she helped the Tigers do just that
DALLAS — When Last-Tear Poa arrived at LSU this season, she was already a national champion. On Sunday, the sophomore won her second title in three seasons, helping the Tigers to their first national championship in program history.
Poa, a native of Melbourne, Australia, played two seasons at Northwest Florida State College before transferring to LSU. In her first season in 2020-21, she averaged 23.0 points per game on 43.5% 3-point shooting, scored 20 points in the championship game, and was named the NJCAA Tournament Most Valuable Player. It was the Raiders’ first national championship in school history.
After another strong season for the Raiders in which she averaged 14.7 points and 4.0 rebounds per game, Poa left Northwest Florida State as one of the best junior-college transfers in the country. The 5’11 point guard was familiar with LSU because she had been coached by LSU alum and fellow Australian Katrina Hibbert growing up. But Poa ultimately chose the Tigers because of head coach Kim Mulkey, who she believed could lead the program to national championships.
“She’s a winner, I’m a winner, and I want to be with winners,” Poa told The Next in the locker room after Sunday’s game.
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This season, Poa appeared in all 36 games for LSU, starting two, and averaged 3.4 points, 1.2 rebounds and 1.2 assists in 12.5 minutes per game. She backed up fifth-year senior Alexis Morris and often subbed in when the offense wasn’t running fluidly.
On Sunday, though, Poa entered the game when Morris picked up her second foul three and a half minutes into the second quarter. She immediately had to defend Iowa guard Caitlin Clark, the consensus National Player of the Year.
“She’s an amazing player, and I think just getting her in foul trouble to rattle her quickly, that was my goal,” Poa said.
Instead, Poa fouled Clark on the first possession she played. But, undeterred, she continued to hound the Iowa star. On the next play, Clark pushed Poa away with her off arm and was called for an offensive foul, her second.
Poa also contributed offensively, hitting two 3-pointers in a pivotal second quarter in which LSU hit six 3-pointers and stretched a four-point lead to 17. “When we got in foul trouble … I thought, ‘Just keep it close until I can get [the starters] back on the floor,’” Mulkey told reporters postgame. “That’s what’s going through your mind. Then Poa hits a three. Jasmine [Carson] hits another three. Sa’Myah [Smith]’s in there battling. They won the game for us. …
“When those guys got in there and they extended the lead and scored with Iowa, I thought, ‘This is going to be a fun night.’ They didn’t just keep it close. They went in and they attacked.”
An exclamation point came with 30 seconds left in the second quarter, when LSU forward LaDazhia Williams picked off an Iowa pass and got the ball to guard Flau’jae Johnson for a fast-break layup. That gave the Tigers a 14-point lead, their largest up to that point. As Johnson made the layup, a trailing Poa leaped in the air in celebration, flexing her arms downward as she landed on the Final Four logo at center court.
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Poa finished the game with six points on 2-for-3 shooting and two assists. Though she was only on the court for 6:58, she helped LSU outscore Iowa by a whopping 13 points in that span. And when the buzzer finally sounded on LSU’s 102-85 win, Poa felt a familiar euphoria.
“We champions!” she remembered thinking, nearly shouting with excitement as she recounted that moment. “I wanted my ring right then and there!”
After cutting down the nets with her teammates, Poa FaceTimed her family in Australia from the LSU locker room, wearing her championship T-shirt and hat. Her parents and siblings had held a small watch party, just them, in the early hours of Monday morning.
“They are so pumped; they’re so loud,” Poa said. “… They’re just shocked. And I’m shocked. … I just can’t believe it.”
Poa has now helped two programs to their first-ever championships, playing different but important roles in each run.
“It’s history,” she said, “and I love doing it, making history.”
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Written by Jenn Hatfield
Jenn Hatfield has been a contributor to The Next since December 2018 and is currently the site's managing editor, Washington Mystics beat reporter and Ivy League beat reporter. Her work has also appeared at FiveThirtyEight, Her Hoop Stats, FanSided and Power Plays.
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