By George Watson
LUBBOCK, Texas – Tyasia Moore scored a game-high 16 points off the bench, and Arleighshya McElroy added 15 points to pace No. 20 seed Trinity Valley Community College to a 51-38 victory over No. 13 seed Northeast Oklahoma A&M in the opening round of the NJCAA Women’s Division I National Basketball Tournament Monday at the Rip Griffin Center.
Mercedes Brooks, who came into the tournament averaging 16.9 points per game, was held to just six, but she was monstrous on the boards, pulling down 19 rebounds for the Lady Cardinals (28-5), who advance to face No. 4 seed Jones County Junior College in the second round at 1 p.m. on Wednesday.
The Lady Cardinals, seeking their seventh straight appearance in the national tournament championship game, held NEO (27-5) to just 20 percent shooting (8 of 40) for the game while forcing a whopping 26 turnovers, which they converted into 20 points.
“You can’t turn it over 14 times in the first half and I thought that was the biggest part of the game,” NEO head coach Jim Rowland said. “When you only have 20 possessions in the first half and you turn it over 14 times … that was one of the keys to the game. We knew they were going to apply pressure and we’ve got to be able to at least try to put the ball in the hole to give ourselves a chance.”
Bethy Mununga, who spent most of the first half in foul trouble, led the Lady Norse with 11 points and 16 rebounds, but was the only player for NEO in double figures. Mariam Gnanou and Mikayla Shulanberger, who each averaged more than 13 points per game coming into the tournament, combined for just 10 points.
“I actually am pretty happy with the defensive effort,” Trinity Valley head coach Gerald Ewing said. “To hold a team to 38 points … we have team goals that we want to keep a team to 50 or less and we had some success, so I’m happy about that.”
Trailing 35-17 early in the third quarter, made a push to get back into the game. Mununga had six of her points in a 9-0 run that cut the Trinity Valley lead to 35-26, and later four more free throws made it a 38-30 game with 1:18 left in the third.
But the Lady Norse would go 0-for-9 from the field in the final period and score just six points total, allowing Trinity Valley to pull away for the win.
While neither team lit the scoreboard up in the first half, it was Trinity Valley that did a lot of the little things that made the difference in racing out to a 28-15 halftime lead.
The Lady Cardinals really clamped own on NEO in the first half defensively, holding the Lady Norse to just 20 percent shooting from the field (4 of 20) while forcing 14 NEO turnovers, which Trinity Valley turned into 13 points.
A three-point play by McElroy kickstarted a 7-1 run to end the first quarter and give Trinity Valley a 14-7 lead at the end of the first quarter. That lead grew to 20-10 early in the second on two free throws by Moore, and Trinity Valley then scored eight of the final 13 points of the half to lead by 13 at intermission.
Moore led all scorers in the first half with eight points while McElroy added seven. Eneritz Larranaga and Megan Jackson had four points each for NEO.