ICC women shine in national tournament despite opening-round loss
March 26, 2013
SALINA, KANSAS – There were no tears as the Itawamba Community College Lady Indians walked off the floor of the Salina Bicentennial Center after a 57-46 loss to preseason No. 1 Northwest Florida State College Lady Raiders (26-5) as they knew they earned the respect and silenced any doubters with their play in the opening round of the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) in Salina, Kansas.
“These girls represented ICC, the state of Mississippi and themselves well today,” said ICC head coach Nanci Gray. “I am extremely proud of the girls. We asked them to leave it all on the floor… that’s exactly what they did and there is no reason for any of them to hang their heads after this loss. There were some people that thought we had no business being here, but they can’t think that any more after today.”
Out-manned and under-sized, the Lady Indians (19-10) took their first lead of the game 18-17 on a jumper by sophomore Ty-Nita Baker (Houston) at the 10:45 mark of the first half before a steal by Tia Coleman (Memphis, TN) turned into a three-pointer by fellow freshman Leslie Robinson (Belmont) to give the Lady Indians a 21-17 lead at the 10:17 mark.
Northwest Florida rallied back to take a 22-21 before a second three from Robinson put the Lady Indians back on top 23-22 with 8:02 left in the first half. Northwest Florida went on a 6-0 run to take a 28-24 lead before Coleman buried a NBA-range three to make it a one-point game before the two teams slugged it out to a 36-33 halftime score in favor of the fifth-ranked Lady Raiders.
“The girls executed our game plan to perfection in the first half,” Gray said. “They didn’t get caught up in the moment of being on the national stage and weren’t intimidated by the size differential. They came out extremely focused and I thought did a good job of controlling the flow of the game like we wanted to do against a team that is built to run-and-gun.”
The NJCAA Region 23 champs opened the second half on a 10-minute scoring drought before a three from Baker made it a 47-38 game in favor of Northwest Florida with 9:43 left in the game. The only other points came at the 14:20 mark in the form of a pair of made free throws from Coleman.
“We just couldn’t get anything to fall,” said Gray. “We had eight lay-ups that were highly contested that rattled out on us and shots that typically fall for us, but I felt like the girls didn’t let it get to them and really stepped it up defensively to give us a chance to get back in the game once the shots started falling.”
A three-pointer by Toya Collins (Jackson) cut the Lady Raiders’ lead to eight at with 3:00 left to play, but the ice-cold shooting continued for the Lady Indians as a late basket by Northwest Florida inside 19 seconds to play pushed the final score out to an 11-point victory.
“I’m proud of the fight the girls showed all the way to the final buzzer,” Gray commented. “They could have very easily given up when the shots weren’t falling, but they just dug a little deeper and gave it everything they had until the very end.”
“In the end, [Northwest Florida’s] size proved to be too much down the stretch as they did a great job keeping us off the boards and limiting our second chance opportunities while creating a little distance between us by scoring off their misses.”
Baker finished with a game-high 19 points, four rebounds, three assists and two blocked shots in her final game at ICC while Coleman finished with a double-double recording 10 points and 12 rebounds. Robinson scored 6, Collins added 5 while Ayanna Lynn (Indianola) and Ashley Wiley (Jackson) scored 2 points each with Jasmine Hampton (Bruce) and Rebecca Payne (Birmingham, AL) chipping in 1 point each.
Tavarsha Scott led Northwest Florida with 18 points and 16 rebounds.
The loss ended a magical run that saw the Lady Indians return to the NJCAA National Tournament for the first time since 1975.
“The girls proved that our program deserves to be in the national spotlight,” said Gray, who was an honorable mention All-American on the ’75 team that advanced to the national tournament. “We can compete at this level despite the recruiting difference, but now it’s about bringing the size and building on the talent it takes to battle with the rest of the teams on this level.”
The Lady Raiders lost on a pair of last-second free throws to Hutchinson (Kansas) Community College 73-71 in the quarterfinals while Trinity Valley (Texas) Community College claimed their second-straight and seventh DI women’s basketball national championship with an 83-71 win over Central Arizona College.
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