MARIANNA, Fla. (February 13, 2019) – Tallahassee Community College's women's basketball team came through in another must-win scenario on Wednesday, rallying to defeat Chipola College, 75-70, in yet another battle of nationally-ranked Panhandle Conference rivals.
Tallahassee entered the game ranked 12th in the NJCAA poll, and No. 4 in Region 8 while Chipola was 8th nationally and third in the region. More importantly, both teams took the floor on Wednesday looking up at Northwest Florida State College and Gulf Coast State College in the PC standings but also knowing that third place could be a valuable position for one of the four teams come March.
While only the top two teams advance to next month's NJCAA District/FCSAA State Tournament in Ocala, third place could receive consideration for an at-large bid to the national tournament.
Needing a win, the game couldn't have started any worse for the Eagles. They missed their first 15 shots, didn't score until the 4:17 mark and hit only 1-of-21 field goal attempts in the first quarter – a paltry 4.8 percent. When Shaela Gardner knocked in a three with 1:03 left in the quarter, Chipola led 18-4.
But the Eagles got three points from the free throw line in the final 46 seconds and trailed just 18-7 ten minutes in.
After Chipola scored the first basket of the second, Tallahassee went on a 12-2 run, capped by a pair of Jada Perry free throws, to pull within three (22-19) with 5:14 left in the half. The Indians increased the margin back to ten on three different occasions before Daisha Bradford's three-pointer with 17 seconds left capped the first half scoring with Chipola in front, 38-31.
The second half turned into a battle of attrition.
Eight players fouled out – four for both teams. Chipola's Namiko Adams picked up her fifth foul with just under a minute left in the third as Tallahassee closed to within 57-54 heading to the fourth. Adams' backcourt teammate, Valerie Nesbitt, was whistled for her fifth with 8:57 remaining in the game.
On the ensuing possession, Tameria Johnson hit a driving layup to give Tallahassee its first lead of the game. She scored again a minute later to cap an 8-0 run and give the Eagles a 60-57 lead.
Chipola's Dekeryia Patterson answered with a three to tie the game, and the Indians regained a 63-62 lead with 6:14 remaining, but the Eagles delivered another 8-0 run to finally wrestle control away from the hosts.
Bradford's three-point play put Tallahassee in front for good, and Aliyah Lawson, playing for the first time since an injury at Gulf Coast State on January 23, hit a three to give the Eagles a 70-63 lead with four minutes remaining. The drama was far from over, however.
After Lawson missed two free throws that would have extended Tallahassee's lead to eight, Chipola's Courtajia Sanders scored the next four points from the charity stripe, the result of Jada Perry and Lawson fouling out – the latter with 58 seconds left – and pulled the Indians within a bucket.
Following a timeout, Jamyra McChristine scored on a putback to push the Eagles' lead back to four, but Chipola got the points right back on two free throws by Patterson.
Finally, with 14 seconds remaining, Dai'Shona Washington-Polk, who only played two minutes and didn't take the floor in the second half until Lawson fouled out, stepped to foul line and hit both shots to make it a two-possession game. Chipola turned the ball over on its ensuing possession, and Washington-Polk hit one more free throw to seal the victory.
All but one player total who saw action failed to get into the scoring column, though both teams had only two players reach double-figures.
Bradford had 23 to lead Tallahassee and Perry added 13. Sanders led Chipola with 28 while Patterson scored 15 and made just 2-of-6 three-point attempts after hitting 15 threes in the teams' first two meetings.
Fifty-nine total fouls resulted in 74 free throw attempts. Tallahassee hit 13-of-16 in the first half but only 8-of-17 after the intermission to finish at a 63.6 percent (21-of-33) clip. Chipola, meanwhile, made 21-of-28 in the second half and finished 29-of-41 overall.
Tallahassee (23-5, 5-5 PC) is now just a half-game back of Chipola (5-4) for third place and two games back of both Gulf Coast State (7-3) and Northwest Florida State (7-3). The Eagles have the bye on Saturday while Chipola travels to Northwest Florida State in another game that will help shape the postseason landscape for the PC.
Tallahassee will return to action next Wednesday when they host Northwest Florida State at 5:30 p.m.