LUBBOCK, Texas – Offense was not a problem when the Western Nebraska Community College women’s basketball team and Tallahassee Community College hit the floor Tuesday afternoon for their first-round NJCAA national tournament game.
The two at-large teams combined for 182 points as the Lady Eagles from Florida scored 32 fourth-quarter points to overcome a third-quarter deficit in registering the 97-85 win over WNCC. Tallahassee advances to face Wabash Valley Wednesday evening while the Cougar’s season comes to an end at 29-5.
“I thought we played really hard. We were just a couple plays away and they made some timely shots and got some offensive rebounds that resulted in baskets,” WNCC coach Chad Gibney said. “But I am really proud of this team of how they handled themselves all year. I think it showed how hard and committed they were doing things the right way.”
WNCC, the No. 22 seed, had the No. 11 seeded Tallahassee scrambling many times in the first three periods. It was a slugfest for 30 minutes. The fourth quarter was where the tide turned for both teams with Tallahassee overcoming a 66-65 deficit to outscore WNCC 32-19 in the fourth for the win.
Karlie Seay, who scored a game high 33 points, said they competed and that is all they can ask for.
“We played really good. We stayed with them and got the lead a couple of times,” the freshman from Chicago said. “I think we got a little bit tired at the end and couldn’t push for that last run.”
Sophomore Jaleesa Avery, who signed with Division I Morehead State in November, said WNCC did everything they could early on and showed that they can compete on the national level.
“I thought overall we played a pretty good game,” Avery said. “Going into the game no one thought we would stay close to the team, so I thought we did really good things to stay with them through the third quarter. Then they kind of took off in the fourth, but we just gave it all we had. I think we proved ourselves today and we proved that we can play at this level with teams from all across the country.”
WNCC and Tallahassee were trading buckets and runs one after another. Gibney said they did what they had to. It just got away from them in the fourth quarter.
“For the most part we played a good game. They are a really talented basketball team. They are hard to guard and their pressure really speeds up and able to get easy baskets in transition,” he said. “We talked about trying to pack the paint and make them make jump shots throughout the week. It is different because we play a certain style all year long and our style is to get up and pressure and run so we wanted to continue to play of how we played during the season but also try to take away some of their strengths and take advantage of their weaknesses.”
WNCC started strong, running out to a 13-6 lead and led 18-13 after a Melisa Kadic 3-pointer. Tallahassee closed out the first quarter on a 6-0 run to lead 19-18 after one period.
The second quarter was another 10-minute period that saw WNCC grab a 29-26 lead on a Anastacia Johnson bucket. WNCC kept the lead and led 40-35 after two Giovanna Silva free throws. Tallahassee came back to hit clutch free throws to send the game deadlocked at 41-41 at intermission.
The third quarter was a period of runs. Tallahassee put together a big 16-2 run that saw the Lady Eagles lead 59-49. WNCC’s Merle Wiehl stopped the run with a 3-pointer and the Cougars would go on a 14-0 run to lead 63-59. WNCC led 66-65 after three.
The fourth quarter saw Tallahassee jump out to a 76-69 lead and led 93-79 late. WNCC tried a late rally but didn’t have enough fire power.
WNCC shot 46.2 percent from the field and were 7 of 21 from beyond the arc. Wiehl buried three treys, while Seay had two.
Tallahassee show 46.3 percent from the field and were just 1 of 11 from beyond the arc. The difference in the game was free throw shooting and rebounding. WNCC connected on 18 of 25 from the charity stripe while Tallahassee was 22 of 38. The Lady Eagles also outrebounded WNCC 53-27.
The two teams also force plenty of turnovers. WNCC forced 20 turnovers with 13 steals, led by Johnson with four. Tallahassee force 29 Cougar turnovers and had 20 steals. Tallahassee had 30 second-chance points to WNCC’s 12. The Lady Eagles also dominated from inside the paint, outscoring WNCC 60-36.
WNCC had three players in double figures. Seay led all scorers with 33 points followed by Wiehl with 17 and Johnson with 13.
Seay and Avery said this team had a good year and they have to be proud of their 29-5 record.
“We had a great season starting off at the beginning to playing now,” Seay said. “We are a whole different team now. We played really good throughout the season, playing tough competition. I really love playing on this team. We were pretty close as a team and our bond can’t be broken.”
Avery said they wanted to go further, but playing like they did today, scoring 85 points in a losing effort, shows a lot about the character of this team.
“I thought overall we had a great year,” she said. “Of course it didn’t end like we wanted it today but we left our legacy as sophomores and we can only pray for the freshmen that they get back here next year.”
WNCC (29-5) 18 23 25 19 – 85
Tallahassee (25-6) 19 22 24 32 – 97
Melisa Kadic 5, Merle Wiehl 17, Jaleesa Avery 6, Anastacia Johnson 13, Giovanna Silva 4, Sophie Agorakis 3, Olivia Wiberg 1, Karli Seay 33, Eva Lanfton 3.
Victoria Pearce 4, Dawn Gipson 14, Juliunn Redmond 14, Jamyra McChristine 12, Stella Logbognon 2, Ayanna Mazyck 2, Japonica James 9, Jada Perry 4, Nakiah Black 31