Tallahassee CC smothers Trinity Valley to earn school’s first women’s basketball national crown
By George Watson
LUBBOCK, Texas – Before his team’s semifinal win in the NJCAA Division I Women’s National Basketball Tournament, Tallahassee Community College head coach Franqua “Q” Bedell called Panhandle Conference rival Gulf Coast State the UConn of junior college basketball.
But after beating the two-time defending national champions in the semifinals, the only team standing in his squad’s way of the title was, well, the Stanford of junior college basketball – Trinity Valley Community College, which was playing in its sixth title game in the last seven years.
So, what does that make Tallahassee now, after taking down Trinity Valley, 69-51, in the championship game of the 2018 national tournament?
“I hope Baylor,” Bedell said. “It legitimizes who we’re trying to be and puts us on the map.”
Nakia Black led three Lady Eagles in scoring with 13 points, and Jamyra McChristine added 12 points for Tallahassee, which had to beat another Panhandle Conference rival in Northwest Florida just to qualify for the regional tournament earlier this month, outscored Trinity Valley 23-11 in the third quarter to break open a tie game at halftime and earn the school its first women’s basketball national championship.
“It’s a credit to these kids for buying into the process, for believing in what I’ve asked them to do for a long time,” Bedell said. “For just having the heart and resilience to fight night in and night out. I’m not the easiest person to deal with but they bought in and I felt like if we kept doing and following the process and this blueprint, it would lead us to this day.”
Trailing by two with 7:35 to play in the third quarter, Tallahassee scored six quick points and eventually stretched that into a 12-2 run that put the Lady Eagles up 49-41 with just over three minutes left in the period.
Tallahassee then closed the period with six straight points to extend the lead to double digits at 54-43 going into the final quarter. Trinity Valley cut it to 10 early in the period, but then would go on a six-minute scoring drought, during which Tallahassee put the game away with a 9-0 run to go up 64-45 and put the game away.
“If felt like that was the breaking point,” Bedell said. “If we’d made a couple of free throws we could have stretched it to 20. When that happened, I felt like we were in the driver’s seat and controlled the game from that point.”
Trinity struggled from the floor from the beginning and hit just 31.7 percent (20 of 63) from the
floor. The Lady Cardinals also committed 14 turnovers that led to 12 Tallahassee points. The Lady Eagles also outrebounded Trinity Valley 48-38 which led to a 16-5 edge in second-chance points.
“Our goal all tournament was to just guard people,” Bedell said. “That’s been our thing all year. Defense wins championships and I felt like if we can hold people to under 40, 50, 60 points, and we’re scoring, that we will win. We knew they are an explosive offense but I felt like if we could them if we had a defense that kept them at bay, and we accomplished that tonight.”
Mercedes Brooks led Trinity Valley with 17 points and Michal Miller added 10.
It was a very physical game from the start, but the teams were also allowed to play that physical style. Still, two of Tallahassee’s top bench players in James (10 points) and Black did have to sit for a good while with a pair of fouls.
Despite their absence, Tallahassee controlled most of the first half and had Trinity Valley chasing. Most of that, though, was due to a miserable first quarter shooting the ball by the Lady Cardinals, who hit just 15 percent (3 of 20) from the field in the first 12 minutes.
The Lady Eagles weren’t much better at 27.8 percent (5 of 18) in the first quarter, but they did control the boards with a 19-12 rebounding edge.
But when Juliunn Redmond hit a 16-foot jumper with 4:32 to play in the first half, Tallahassee had one of its biggest leads of the game at 28-20 and appeared to be the first team to seize control of the game.
Trinity Valley, however, showed why it’s got a tradition of being in the title game. Michal Miller scored six of her eight first-half points in the final 41/2 minutes as part of a 12-4 run that allowed the Lady Cardinals, who shot 71.4 percent (10 of 14) in the second quarter, to tie the game at 32 at the intermission.
Mercedes Brooks led Trinity Valley with 10 first-half points while McChristine had 11 for Tallahassee.
“It feels excellent,” McChristine said. “Especially to be a freshman in this position, to promise my coach we’d do something and you finally got it, it feels great.”