Miller its game-winner in overtime as No. 20 Trinity Valley shocks No. 1 Shelton State, 65-63
By George Watson
LUBBOCK, Texas – When it comes to playing for a national championship, perhaps no program knows more about what it takes to get there than Trinity Valley Community College.
Even tough the Lady Cardinals entered the NJCAA Division I Women’s National Basketball Tournament as the 20th seed, nothing seems to be able to keep them from a destiny of playing in the title game for the seventh time in the last eight years. Not even an undefeated No. 1 seed.
Michal Miller hit a running jumper with 0.4 seconds left in overtime as the Lady Cardinals handed Shelton State its first – and only – loss of the season, rallying from nine points down midway through the fourth quarter to shock the Lady Bucs, 65-63, in the semifinals of the national tournament Friday night at the Rip Griffin Center.
“At the end of the game or when we need a big shot I know I’m kind of the go-to person,” said Miller, who finished with 13 points. “So, it was like a lock-in. It’s either all or nothing, this time or no time. That’s what my motivation was. I actually got hit in the lip and thought they were going to call (the foul) but (coach Gerald Ewing) always says don’t expect them to call anything, so I just went up and got the bucket.”
The win vaults Trinity Valley (32-5) into the finals to face either No. 2 seed Gulf Coast State or No. 11 seed Tallahassee Community College at 7 p.m. on Saturday. The Lady Cardinals will be in search of the school’s ninth national crown and first since winning back-to-back championships in 2013-14.
While there are only a couple of players who have experience in a title game – Miller and Mercedes Brooks (15 points) being a couple of them, Ewing was confident his team would find a way to continue their improbable run from having to earn an at-large berth to the tournament to reaching the title game.
“I got a text this morning saying go to sleep, rest easy and the Valley way will help you in the final four.” Ewing said. “I don’t know who it came from, and I started to text back and say, ‘who is this?’ But I didn’t respond back. I just think these young ladies didn’t ever lose their cool.
“I told each one of these young ladies that they’re going to play for a national championship in one of their two years here. That’s what we do at the Valley.”
For Shelton State, meanwhile, it’s a bitter pill to swallow after not having tasted defeat all season. The Lady Bucs came into the game unblemished in 35 tries but will leave the national tournament having to settle for playing in its third straight third-place game, all at the doing of Trinity Valley.
“Huge disappointment,” Shelton State head coach Madonna Thompson said. “I’ll be honest with you, I’m sick of sitting here I the same position for three years in a row lowing to the same team. It’s frustrating to me. We had the lead, and they made some big plays and hit some nice shots in the fourth quarter. They made plays when they needed to and we probably missed out on a couple of buckets we should have hit earlier in the game and maybe later in the game.”
One of those could have won the game for the Lady Bucks, but Cierra Johnson, an Alabama signee who had a game-high 28 points despite being hounded by the Trinity Valley defense all game missed a short jumper, and Shelton committed a turnover as time ticked down, sending the game into overtime.
Trinity Valley got the first four points of overtime, but Tiyah Johnson hit two of her five 3-pointers in the final period, the final one tying the game at 63 with 1:08 to play.
Shelton had another chance to win it in overtime, but Cierra Johnson was called for a travel with 6.4 seconds to play as she made her move to drive to the basket for the potential game-winner. That set up Miller to hit the game-winner as she drove the right side of the lane and put up the floating jumper at what seemed like the buzzer.
But after Trinity Valley had celebrated and the officials started to leave the court, video review showed 0.4 seconds left. Shelton got the ball inbounds to Tiyah Johnson, but her attempt was long, sending the Lady Cardinals to the title game.
“All I can tell you is this is a special group here,” Ewing said. “I told them from the beginning they had a chance to win a national championship. They believe.”
Tiyah Johnson finished with 15 points and Margaret Robinson added 12 for Shelton State.
Arleighshya McElroy led Trinity Valley with 18 points.