LUBBOCK, Texas (March 22, 2018) – Tallahassee Community College's run at the NJCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship continued on Thursday with a 55-52 win over Panhandle Conference rival Northwest Florida State College in the quarterfinal round.
In what amounted to the rubber match of the teams' five-game season series, the Eagles improved to 27-6 with the win while Northwest Florida State's season ends at 24-7, its last three losses all at the hands of a Tallahassee squad who is now just two wins away from a national championship.
Tallahassee advances to Friday's national semifinal against another conference rival – two-time defending national champion Gulf Coast State College (8 p.m. eastern). The winner will play for the national championship on Saturday evening against either Shelton (Ala.) State Community College or Trinity Valley (Texas) Community College.
With very little unknowns remaining on either side, Thursday's quarterfinal quickly developed into a defensive slugfest.
Both teams shot 3-for-11 from the floor and combined for 13 turnovers in the first quarter (seven by Tallahassee), which equaled the number of points scored in the first ten minutes when Northwest Florida State led, 7-6. The Raiders warmed up in the second quarter, hitting 6-of-13 from the floor to open up as much as a nine-point lead, 19-10, at the 6:24 mark.
Northwest Florida State's always stout defense held Tallahassee to just 35.2 percent shooting (19-of-54) for the game, but the Eagles hit 11-of-23 in the second half, including 5-of-8 three-pointers to erase a 27-20 halftime deficit.
Nakiah Black did most of the damage for Tallahassee. She knocked down four three-pointers, including three as part of a game-changing 21-4 run during a 6:41 stretch to close the third quarter and open the fourth.
Her third triple of the half gave Tallahassee a 45-36 lead with 8:43 left in the game.
The Raiders eventually pulled within two on Trinity Baptiste's three-point play with 2:27 left then neither side scored again until Black connected inside the final minute.
Originally counted a two-pointer, an official review changed Black's final basket to a three. She added two free throws with 32 seconds left to give the Eagles a 54-47 lead.
As it turned out, the game was still far from over.
Angela Jernigan's three-pointer cut Tallahassee's lead to four. Two turnovers erased potential free throw opportunities for the Eagles and when Juliunn Redmond finally got a turn at the charity stripe, she only hit one of two.
Leandra Echi hit a pair of free throws with three seconds left to cut the Eagles' lead to 55-52. After Redmond missed both free throws on the ensuing possession, Echi fired a potential game-tying three-pointer as she crossed half court but it rimmed out at the buzzer.
Tallahassee virtually matched the Raiders defensively, limiting Northwest Florida State to just 17-of-48 shooting (35.4 percent) and 3-of-13 as part of a nine-point third quarter – the 25th time the Eagles have held an opponent to single digits in a quarter this season.
Black finished with a game-high 20 points.
Friday'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.