LUBBOCK, Texas (March 24, 2018) - Tallahassee Community College completed a remarkable week in Lubbock, Texas, on Saturday evening, defeating Trinity Valley (Texas) Community College, 69-51, to win the NJCAA Division I Women's Basketball National Championship.
It's Tallahassee's first women's basketball national championship and the school's first national title in any sport since softball won the NJCAA crown in 1994. En route to becoming the lowest-seeded team to ever win the tournament, the 11th-seeded Eagles won five games in as many days. After wins against No. 22 seed Western Nebraska Community College and No. 6 seed Wabash Valley (Ill.) College, the gauntlet was, arguably, as tough as any champion has faced.
Tallahassee knocked out a pair of Panhandle Conference rivals, Northwest Florida State College - in the teams' fifth meeting of the season - and two-time defending national champion Gulf Coast State College, who had beaten the Eagles in three previous meetings this season, just to advance to Saturday's championship game. There, Tallahassee faced eight-time national champion Trinity Valley, who was in the finals for the sixth time in seven years.
Despite playing in their first-ever championship game, the moment never seemed too big for head coach Franqua "Q" Bedell's Eagles, despite playing in front of a partisan Trinity Valley crowd.
Like Tallahassee, 20th-seeded Trinity Valley was playing its fifth game of the tournament, though it had an off day after opening play on Monday. That, perhaps, contributed to the slow start for both teams. Tallahassee led just 13-7 after the first quarter, the 26th time the Eagles held an opponent to single-digits in a quarter this season. Foul trouble also crept up in the second quarter - Japonica James and Nakiah Black had two fouls each with six minutes left in the first half - but the Eagles managed to get the half in a tie game at 32-all.
With 4:22 left in the third, the outcome was still hanging in the balance with Tallahassee leading by just two, 43-41. The Eagles, however, closed the quarter on a 12-2 run and began to take control, leading 55-43, as the game moved to the fourth.
After the Cardinals briefly pulled to within ten, Tallahassee put the final nail in the coffin by holding Trinity Valley scoreless for six minutes.
The Eagles led by 15 at the midway point of the quarter and the lead swelled to as many as 20 inside the final minute. At that point, it was a matter of counting down the final seconds and waiting for the confetti to fall in the Rip Griffin Center.
Defense carried the Eagles through the tournament and that was the case again on Saturday. Trinity Valley shot just 31.7 percent (20-of-63) for the game and 24.1 percent (7-of-29) in the second half. Ironically, Tallahassee closed the season with another single-digit effort on defense, limiting the Cardinals to just eight fourth-quarter points.
Tallahassee was +10 on the boards (48-38), including 16-13 on the offensive class, which translated to a 16-5 advantage in second-chance points.
Nakiah Black scored 13 points to lead Tallahassee. Jamyra McChristine had 12 and Japonica James, 10. All three players were named to the All-Tournament Team while Bedell was named Coach of the Tournament.
Tallahassee (29-6) ends the season with a school-record 29 wins.