EMCC Set For National Tourney

East Mississippi was undefeated the last time the school opened play in the NJCAA women’s basketball tournament. Three decades later in their first trip back to the national stage since 1978, the EMCC Lady Lions will tip off this week’s NJCAA Division I Women’s Basketball National Championship by meeting unbeaten Walters State during Wednesday’s opening-round action in Salina, Kan. Tip-off for the EMCC-WSCC contest is set for noon at the 7,000-seat Salina Bicentennial Center.

Making their first national tournament appearance since finishing 31-1 as NJCAA tournament runners-up to Panola (Texas) Junior College in 1978 with current Pearl River Community College athletic director/men’s basketball coach Richard Mathis at the helm, head coach Sharon Thompson’s 24-5 Lady Lions enter this week’s tournament seeded 12th. EMCC earned its invitation to Kansas by claiming the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament title with wins over Northwest Mississippi, state champion Jones County and ninth-ranked Copiah-Lincoln.

Winners of 14 of their last 15 decisions, the 24th-ranked Lady Lions are led in scoring and rebounding by sophomore forward Angelique Burtts of Conyers, Ga. The Georgia State signee has averaged 15.6 points and 7.7 rebounds per game in being named to the 2008-09 NJCAA All-Region 23 Team. Freshman forward Martika Hull, an All-MACJC North State First Team selection, ranks as EMCC’s No. 2 scorer (13.4 ppg) and third-leading rebounder (7.3 rpg) on the season.

Basketball fans will be able to listen to audio-streamed radio broadcasts of every NJCAA tournament game via the Internet by visiting http://www.ksal.com. Fans logging onto http://www.cybersportsusa.com will be able to access up-to-date statistics continuously throughout every game of this week’s tournament. In addition, fans will be able to access and download updated tournament brackets during the week at http://www.bicentennial.org.

Winners of the TCCAA/NJCAA Region VII Tournament championship in Cleveland, Tenn., the fifth-seeded Lady Senators of Walters State Community College bring an unblemished 30-0 mark to Kansas for this week’s NJCAA Division I Women’s Basketball National Championship. Affiliated with the Tennessee Community College Athletic Association and located in Morristown, Tenn., WSCC was ranked third nationally in the final regular-season NJCAA Division I women’s basketball poll.

Guided by 32nd-year head coach Dave Kragel, WSCC will be appearing in the NJCAA tournament for the third consecutive year and the fourth time in the last five years. The Lady Senators are led by freshman guard LaKrystle Goss, who was named the NJCAA Region VII Tournament MVP after sharing regular-season MVP honors of the TCCAA’s Eastern Division. WSCC sophomore guard Rhon’Neisha Taylor was named to both the All-TCCAA and All-Eastern Division teams, while freshmen Melanie Hemphill and Shy Marsh were both tabbed All-Eastern Division.

This week’s five-day women’s basketball national tournament in Kansas will be played using a false double-elimination format. The winner of Wednesday’s EMCC-WSCC contest will advance to meet the first-round winner between Chipola, Fla. (#4 seed) and Sheridan, Wyo. (#13 seed) on Thursday at 8 p.m. CT. The losers of the two opening-round games pitting the same four teams will face other Thursday at 2 p.m. CT.

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