Trinity Valley races past Walters State, into semifinals for eighth straight year
By George Watson
LUBBOCK, Texas – Michal Miller drained seven 3-pointers as part of her game-high 27 points, and No. 20 Trinity Valley Community College used a 21-4 third quarter to run away from No. 12 Walters State, 77-47, in the quarterfinals of the NJCAA Division I Women’s National Basketball Tournament on Thursday at the Rip Griffin Center.
Mercedes Brooks added 14 points and Tyasia Moore chipped in 13 for the Lady Cardinals, who advance to their eighth straight semifinal where they will face No. 1 Shelton State for the third consecutive season.
A win on Friday would put Trinity Valley into the championship game for the seventh straight year, seeking their first title since winning back-to-back crowns in 2013 and 2014.
“The girls are totally bought into what we’re doing, and they understand that defense wins championships,” Trinity Valley head coach Gerald Ewing said. “That’s what I’ve been stressing to them all year is the ability to get clean stops and easy scores. If you don’t want to run a bunch of offense, then get clean stops and push the ball.
“The energy has been amazing, that’s all I can tell you. March Madness, that’s the other part of it.”
After playing to a 20-all tie through the first 12 minutes of the game, the Lady Cardinals dominated the rest of the way. It started with a 14-0 run that was started and finished by Alaysia Ready that put the Lady Cardinals up 34-20 with 4:21 left in the first half, and Trinity Valley was never seriously threatened again.
Up 41-27 at halftime, Trinity Valley put the game away for good by outscoring Walters State 21-4 in the third and holding the Lady Senators without a field goal to take a commanding 62-31 lead into the final period.
Walters State head coach Dave Kragel said he saw signs even before the game that his team might struggle coming off of Wednesday’s thrilling, come-from-behind win over Cochise.
“I felt like when they were in warmups they didn’t have any energy,” Kragel said. “It was like they were just here. When you come from 10 down like we did, and you have to play with so much energy to get back in it … it’s a tough situation. At this point kids should have an understanding of how hard it is, but we had only two kids who played any significant time last year at the national tournament. But I’m proud of my team, they played extremely hard and to finish the season 30-6, that’s a pretty good season.”
Trinity Valley’s quickness and athleticism gave Walters State troubles from the opening tipoff. The Lady Cardinals jumped out with five quick points, then used a 9-2 run late in the first quarter to turn that into a 16-9 advantage.
Walters State closed the gap to within 16-14 late, but the Lady Cardinals re-established the lead, and more, by beginning the second quarter with a 14-0 run, holding the Lady Senators scoreless for the first six-plus minutes of the period.
After Walters State closed to within nine at 36-27 with 1:51 to play in the first half, Trinity Valley closed out the period with five straight points.
Trinity Valley was able to maintain its hot shooting throughout the first half, hitting 56 percent (14 of 25) from the field, including 4 of 7 from 3-point range. Trinity Valley also outscored Walters State 18-8 I the paint.
Michal Miller led the Lady Cardinals with 16 points in the first half.
Sara Vujacic led Walters State with 15 points as the only Lady Senators player in double figures.