Northwest Florida shocks Moberly Area, hands Greyhounds first loss of the season.
By George Watson
LUBBOCK, Texas – Georgia Gayle drained six 3-pointers as part of her game-high 20 points, and No. 14 seed Northwest Florida State College pulled of the upset of the NJCAA Division I Women’s National Basketball Tournament, handing No. 3 seed Moberly Area Community College its first and only loss of the season in a 68-47 rout of the Lady Greyhounds on Wednesday at the Rip Griffin Center.
The Raiders (24-6) shot 46.3 percent (25 of 54) from the field and held a Moberly (32-1) team to near half its season average and its lowest point total of the season by 12 points.
“I’m proud of my team,” Northwest Florida head coach Bart Walker said. “That’s probably the best we’ve got the basketball since he first of the season. We struggled a little bit late in the regular season but I give all the credit to the ladies because they’re buying into the (scouting report). We did a great job defensively, I think, for three quarters. They brought it today. They were ready.”
With the win, the Raiders advance to the quarterfinals on Thursday to face either Wabash Valley or FSCAA Panhandle Conference rival Tallahassee Community College at 7 p.m.
Moberly came into the tournament as one of the highest scoring teams in the country, averaging 79.9 points per game on 41.1 percent shooting. But the Lady Greyhounds struggled mightily to take that offensive prowess into its national tournament opener.
The Lady Greyhounds hit just 17 field goals for the entire game against the Raiders, almost half of what they averaged during the season, including 2 of 14 from the 3-point line. Moberly also hurt its own cause by committing 25 turnovers which led to 25 Raiders points, and allowing Northwest Florida to win the rebounding battle, 32-29.
“You get to a different level when you get our here with the best teams in the country, and we’ve responded better throughout the season,” Moberly Area head coach Chad Killinger said. “But they shot the ball really well, it didn’t matter what defense we went to, they found the openings and did a good job of being prepared. They stretched us out with their three-point shooting and we got out of our zone and they beat us inside.”
Moberly struggled even more on defense, where Gayle seemed to be able to hit from anywhere on the floor, and her 3-pointers came at crucial times as Northwest Florida either built or extended its lead.
Leading 35-20 at halftime, she immediately came out in the third quarter and drained her fourth 3-pointer, then added her fifth and sixth in a span of 56 seconds as the Raiders put the game away with a 11-0 run that gave them a 53-28 lead with 2:25 to play in the third quarter.
Moberly got to within 58-39 early in the fourth quarter thanks to a 7-0 run to start the period, but the Lady Greyhounds could get no closer the rest of the way.
“Our mindset is to just keep pushing and never underestimate a team and keep pushing whether we’re up 25 or down seven,” sophomore guard Ann Jernigan said. “That’s our focus to keep maintaining our defensive stance and keep running our offense.”
Trinity Baptiste chipped in 13 points and Jernigan added 11 for the Raiders.
Anisha George led Moberly with 12 points.
After an even first quarter, Northwest Florida took control in the second quarter behind a barrage of 3-pointers from Gayle, who was 3 of 6 from beyond the arc in the first half. Down 18-16, her first trey kickstarted a decisive 13-0 run, which ended with a 3-pointer from Awa Trasi, that put the Raiders up 26-18 with just under three minutes left in the first half.
After a basket by Jocelyn Taylor for Moberly, the Raiders closed the half with a 9-0 spurt that included the third trey of the half for Gayle, who finished the half with 11 points.
Northwest Florida’s defense kept Moberly from getting into an offensive rhythm. George, Angelica Williams and Carnethia Brown each game into the tournament averaging in double figures in scoring but combined for just 11 points in the first half.
George led the Lady Greyhounds with eight points.