No. 20 Trinity Valley uses late surge to race past No. 4 Jones County, 78-59
By George Watson
LUBBOCK, Texas – Michal Miller scored a game-high 20 points, and No. 20 seed Trinity Valley Community College closed out No. 4 seed Jones County Junior College with a 19-4 run for a 78-69 victory in the second around of the NJCAA Women’s Division I National Basketball Tournament Wednesday at the Rip Griffin Center.
Mercedes Brooks and Arleighshya McElroy added 13 points apiece for the Lady Cardinals, who advance to the quarterfinals to face either Cochise College or Walters State College at 5 p.m. on Thursday.
Tyasia Moore chipped in 16 points for Trinity Valley (29-5), which trailed 65-59 with 7:31 to play. But after head coach Gerald Ewing called a timeout, the Lady Cardinals refocused and rattled off 10 of the next 14 points to tie the game at 69, then finished with a jumper and converted seven of eight free-throw attempts to close out the game.
“It was basically about getting clean stops,” Ewing sad of the conversation in the timeout huddle. “The games not over, they’re going to make a run, they’re a good team. We’ve got to rebound the ball and we’ve got to play defense. Every time we got clean stops we got easy scores. That was the basis of the conversation, maybe not word for word, but it was close.”
The Lady Bobcats (26-4) came into the game as one of the top rebounding teams in the country and did finish Wednesday with a 39-34 edge. But Trinity Valley’s defense negated the advantage by getting 24 points off 15 Jones County turnovers.
Trinity Valley also did a good job of containing – somewhat – Jones County’s dynamic guard Alexis Tolefree, holding her under her average of 20.4 points per game. She led the Lady Bobcats with 18 points, but most of that came in the first half.
It was a 3-pointer and a layup from Camryn London that capped a 15-2 run through the end of the third quarter and early part of the fourth quarter that put the Lady Bobcats up seven at 65-59. But after a Nique Cherry bucket, the Lady Bobcats would go the final 6:24 of the game without putting one in the hoop.
“They got an easy bucket coming out of the timeout, and we had dry spell there where we had a couple of turnovers and missed a couple of shots. That’s basketball,” Jones County head coach Missy Bilderback said. “Things just didn’t go our way, and they made a couple of plays, made a couple of shots. They had to make some plays, and they did.”
Kira Bonner added 16 points for the Lady Bobcats while Cherry finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Through two games in the national tournament the Lady Cardinals have played nothing like the No. 20 seed and more like the team in search of its first national title since wining back-to-back crowns in 2013-14. On Wednesday, they kept that level of play going from the opening tip.
Trinity Valley opened the game with a 7-0 run, capped by its only 3-pointer of the game on a shot by Brooks. Even though Jones County answered that initial run, it could not find an answer to the Lady Cardinals’ constant defensive pressure, which generated eight turnovers by the Lady Bobcats.
The Lady Cardinals established their biggest lead of the first half at 31-24 on a steal and layup by Moore with 5:20 to play in the second quarter. Jones County came back with five straight points, including the second 3-pointer of the half by Tolefree, to pull to within a bucket at 31-29, but a bucket by Miller and two free throws by Moore pushed it back to a six-point lead, and Trinity Valley rode that to a 41-35 halftime lead.
Trinity shot the ball well in the first half, hitting on 16 of 29 shots (55.2 percent) despite going just 1-for-5 from the 3-point line. McElroy and Moore had 10 points each for the Lady Cardinals.