SALINA, Kan. – The East Mississippi women’s basketball team used a decisive 49-29 rebounding advantage to outlast a game Sheridan College club and stay alive in the NJCAA Division I Women’s Basketball National Championship with a 64-60 consolation victory Thursday afternoon at the Salina Bicentennial Center.
Head coach Sharon Thompson’s 25-6 Lady Lions move on to face No. 23 Trinity Valley Community College of Athens, Texas in Friday’s consolation bracket at 2 p.m. Seeded ninth in this week’s tournament in Kansas, the 26-8 Lady Cardinals earned their 14th trip to the national tournament as 2008-09 champions of Region 14.
Trailing by six points (34-28) at the intermission to Sheridan, the 24th-ranked Lady Lions found themselves down, 53-45, with eight minutes remaining following a Kendahl Avery 3-pointer. Appearing somewhat fatigued with only seven players seeing action in the contest, the Wyoming-based Lady Generals seemed to gradually succumb to EMCC’s physicality and athleticism down the stretch. A put-back basket by Columbus’ Jasmine Abrams – her first points of the game – keyed a 9-1 spurt that was energized by East Mississippi’s offensive rebounding and full-court pressure.
After missing her first eight shot attempts of the game, on top of Wednesday’s 2-of-13 shooting effort in EMCC’s 63-49 first-round loss to undefeated Walters State, Abrams converted on back-to-back inside baskets on feeds from Angelique Burtts and Sanitra Bush to knot the score at 54-54 with 5:33 left in the elimination contest. Sheridan briefly reclaimed the lead, 56-54, after Tahnee Robinson followed her own missed shot.
With eight second-half steals, the Lady Lions continued to turn up the defensive heat and benefitted from consecutive steals to move ahead by three points (59-56) with just over four minutes remaining. After Robinson knocked down her 14th and 15th free throws of the contest to cut the deficit to a single point, Abrams grabbed Kottia White’s miss and pushed the lead back up to three points (61-58). However, SC’s Mandy Mullock answered with a score to make it a 61-60 contest with 3:26 on the clock.
Following empty possessions from both teams, Burtts found freshman Martika Hull underneath to put the Lady Lions back up by three points (63-60). After scoring 20 first-half points on 5-of-11 from the field and 9-of-9 from the line, Sheridan’s Robinson was the only Lady General player to attempt a shot over the final three minutes. However, the nation’s top NJCAA Division I scorer at 29 points per game misfired on her last five tries from the field, including a pair of potential game-tying 3-pointers over the final minute.
With the 12th-seeded Lady Lions still clinging to a 63-60 advantage, Burtts was fouled with 29.2 seconds on the clock and went to the line for a 1-and-1 opportunity. The All-Region 23 performer failed to make it a two-possession game by missing the front end. Held to 1-of-11 second-half shooting, Robinson missed on another potential game-tying trey for the 13th-seeded Lady Generals. Burtts, who played just 19 minutes in the contest because of foul trouble, sealed EMCC’s four-point consolation victory by converting on the front end of another 1-and-1 effort with just 7.5 ticks left.
Shooting 44 percent from the field in the second half and limiting Sheridan to just 32-percent shooting after halftime, East Mississippi was led by Hull’s 20 points on 8-of-13 field-goal accuracy. The former Southeast Lauderdale standout also collected nine rebounds. Burtts and the starting backcourt tandem of White and Javitia Eades each contributed nine points apiece to the winning effort, while Abrams hit her last four shot attempts to tally eight points to go along with her game-high 19 rebounds. Just five boards away from the NJCAA tournament record of 24 rebounds set by Gulf Coast’s Sherika Chinn in 1998, 12 of Abrams’ 19 caroms were of the offensive variety.
Ending their season at 26-10, the Lady Generals were led by Robinson’s game-best 28 points, though only eight of those points came after halftime. Kori Bingham added 10 points for Sheridan.