LUBBOCK, Texas (March 20, 2018) – It wasn't pretty but style points aren't what's important in March. "Survive and advance" is the mantra this time of year and that's exactly what Tallahassee Community College did on Tuesday in a 97-85 win over Western Nebraska Community College in the opening round at the NJCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship.
With the win, Tallahassee (25-6), seeded 11th in the tournament moves into the second round, where it will face sixth-seeded Wabash Valley (Ill.) College at 8 p.m. eastern on Wednesday.
For Western Nebraska, the tournament's No. 22 seed, its season ends at 29-5.
Tallahassee tied a postseason school record with 97 points despite a shooting display that could've easily cut short its second straight trip to Lubbock – 37-of-80 from the floor (just 15-of-41 in the first half), 1-of-11 three-pointers and 22-of-38 from the free throw line.
The shooting woes left the Eagles in a dogfight and facing a 66-65 deficit entering the final quarter. But as ugly as the first three quarters may have been, the fourth quarter was a work of art for Tallahassee.
The Eagles hit 13-of-20 shot attempts in the fourth en route to a 32-19 advantage in the scoring column. Eleven points were the result of forcing six turnovers in the final ten minutes, and Tallahassee limited Western Nebraska to just 6-of-16 shooting.
"They (Western Nebraska) did a lot of things in the beginning to stifle us but I felt like if we kept steady on what we're capable of doing, we would persevere," said Tallahassee head coach Franqua "Q" Bedell. "And we finally started getting some rebounds and making some free throws."
Bedell credited the Cougars' ability to force Tallahassee to settle for jump shots, particularly through the first half, which ended in a 41-41 tie.
Tallahassee appeared poised to seize control in the third quarter. A 16-2 run, capped by a putback from Stella Logbognon, gave the Eagles a 59-49 lead at the 4:25 mark. Just 2:27 later, however, Anastacia Johnson's lay-up off a turnover by Dawn Gipson completed a 14-0 run to put Western Nebraska back in front 63-59.
In the fourth, after Western Nebraska tied the game with a pair of free throws, Nakiah Black's basket put Tallahassee in front for good, 71-69, at the 8:16 mark and sparked a quick 7-0 run.
The Cougars were still within striking distance, trailing by only six, 85-79, with 4:14 remaining but eight unanswered points all but put the game away for Tallahassee, who claimed its first victory in the national tournament since 2001.
Juliunn Redmond capped the run with a basket with 2:12 left to give Tallahassee its largest lead of the game, 93-79.
She finished with 14 points, one of four players in double-figures for the Eagles.
Black led the team with 31, including six in the final 36 seconds of the first quarter to erase a five-point deficit and give Tallahassee a 19-18 lead.
With the jump shots not falling, Bedell preached the value of attacking the basket. The Eagles responded with a 60-36 scoring advantage in the paint, including 20 of their 32 fourth-quarter points.
No one player benefitted from that strategy more than Jamyra McChristine, who tied a career-high with 17 points and pulled down 12 rebounds – her first double-digit effort in either category since January 20.
"My mentality was to give Coach my all today and just keep going," said McChristine.
Gipson also scored 14, including eight on 4-for-4 shooting, during the crucial fourth quarter.
Wednesday's game will be streamed on NJCAA TV on a pay-per-view basis. Individual games are $4.99 while a tournament pass can be purchased for $12.99.
NJCAA TV is available online at NJCAATV.com as well as through Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV and Apple TV.
Black tied a postseason record with 12 free throw attempts…surprisingly, the Eagles ended up outshooting the Cougars by one-tenth of a percentage point and the .463 clip set a postseason record…the 53 rebounds tied a postseason record established just 12 days ago against Daytona State in the Region 8 Tournament…Black was credited with five of the team's 20 steals, which established another postseason mark for the Eagles…Japonica James had just nine points and eight rebounds but she did continue to move up some of the Eagles' all-time statistical lists. Most notably, on 4-of-8 shooting, she moved past Lawriell Wilson for the most field goals made in school history…the game featured 10 ties and 14 lead changes and Tallahassee led for just 16:42, roughly half of that coming in the fourth quarter…Tallahassee and Wabash Valley have never met, though they do have a common opponent this season – Vincennes University. Wabash took two of three games from the Trailblazers, including the District P Championship Game on March 9. Tallahassee defeated Vincennes 128-72 in Panama City, Fla., on November 11.