LUBBOCK – Troyian Brooks poured in a game-high 19 points, including the game-winner on a layup with 3.3 seconds left, as No. 24 seed ASA-Brooklyn pulled off the upset with a 60-59 victory over No. 9 seed Salt Lake Community College in the opening round of the NJCAA Division I Women’s National Basketball Tournament at the Rip Griffin Center.
Brooks’ lay-in off a high screen capped a furious rally for the Lady Avengers (22-1), who trailed 53-44 just over a minute into the final period. But ASA outscored Salt Lake (26-6) 16-8 in the final period and held the Lady Bruins to just two field goals and six points on 23 percent shooting in the final 8:51 of the game.
“For us, all year, we have one loss and the way we play and the way we structure what we do is about heart, hard work and effort, and that’s it,” ASA-Brooklyn head coach Thomas Davis said. “If we lose a game on it, we lose a game. But I told the guys before the game started that when you’re pressing a team, you’re going to give up some baskets and you have to be OK with that. But when you put that much pressure on somebody, eventually they’re going to break at the end and that’s what worked.”
Kiara Smith added 11 points for the Lady Avengers, who advance to face New Mexico Junior College in the second round on Tuesday at 4 p.m. ASA outrebounded Salt Lake 44-32.
Tia Hay and Rian Rawlings led Salt Lake with 12 points each and Emma Villas added 10. The Lady Bruins used a 14-2 run to close the third quarter and lead 51-44, then got a put-back from Ariel Miller to start the fourth quarter to push the lead to nine.
But ASA answered with two straight buckets by Smith to close the gap. The biggest bucket, however, came from Brooks, who hit a 22-foot 3-pointer from the left wing with 1:04 left to play to pull the Lady Avengers to within one at 57-56.
After trading three throws, ASA got the defensive stop it needed and forced Salt Lake to foul each time the Lady Avengers began to run a ball screen. But Salt Lake couldn’t stop the final, decisive play from happening.
“I thought we had good looks in the fourth (quarter), the same we had in the third, we just didn’t make them in the fourth,” Salt Lake head coach Betsy Specketer said. “Defensively they are long and they put a lot of pressure on you, but the shots we made in the third were open in the fourth, we just didn’t make them in the fourth.”
Making its second national tournament appearance in three years, the Lady Avengers certainly didn’t play like they were the lowest seed in the tournament. Despite shooting just 21.4 percent in the first quarter, ASA was able to hang around thanks to its defense, which forced eight Salt Lake turnovers in the first 12 minutes of the game.
Eventually, ASA was able to turn that effort into a lead, tying the game at 28 on a Caitlin Roche 3-pointer with 2:28 to play then ending the first-half on a 6-0 run, capped by a trey from Roche to lead 34-30 at the intermission.
Salt Lake outrebounded ASA 23-14 in the first half, but the Lady Bruins also had 12 turnovers to just five for the Lady Avengers, and ASA did a good job of converting those turnovers, getting 13 points.
Brooks and Roche each led ASA with nine points while Tia Hay paced Salt Lake with nine.
ASA kept the pressure up to start the third quarter, attacking the basket and also hitting key outside shots. The Lady Avengers opened up the second half with a 5-0 run to extend its lead to 39-30 just under two minutes into the period. But Salt Lake scored 14 of the final 16 points of the period to lead 51-44 going into the final stanza.