By George Watson
LUBBOCK, Texas – Gazmyne Herndon recorded a triple-double with 17 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists, and No. 12 seed Walters State hit 10 of 19 from 3-point range in racing away from No. 21 seed North Dakota SCS for an 80-43 victory in the opening round of the NJCAA Division I Women’s National Basketball Tournament Monday at the Rip Griffin Center.
“We’ve bee working hard in practice so it would give us some momentum to come out and play hard,” Herndon said. “(A triple double) is something I’ve been wanting to accomplish all season and I’d be one point or one rebound from a triple-double. Now it was time to get it done.”
Sara Vujacic added 12 points for the Lady Senators (29-5), who advance to face No. 5 seed Cochise College at 3 p.m. on Wednesday.
Walters State, playing for the first time in almost two weeks, held North Dakota SCS (29-4) to just 27.3 percent from the field (15 of 55) and just 1 of 15 from 3-point range. That allowed the Lady Senators to slowly build a double-digit lead through most of the first half then put the game away with a decisive fourth quarter in which they outscored the Lady Wildcats 23-8.
“We had a few kids get into foul trouble early, which is not the best in the world, but we had other people step up and take care of that, and that’s what happens on a good basketball team,” Walters state head coach Dave Kragel said. “We moved the ball around and I thought we got some really good looks. When you get good looks, you expect your kids to make shots, and they did.”
Even with key players in foul trouble early, Walters State displayed balanced scoring. Diamond Forrest chipped in 11 and Jessica Wallis came off the bench to added 10 points in the win.
Walters State shot the ball very well, hitting 51.6 from the field (32 of 62), including 64.7 percent (11 of 17) in the fourth quarter.
By that time, however, the Lady Senators had a substantial lead that the Lady Wildcats couldn’t overcome. Dayuna Johnson led North Dakota SCS with 10 points.
“They shot it well,” North Dakota SCS coach Tom Dryburgh said. “Our game plan going into it was to give them the opportunity for certain kids to make shots and prove they could to it, and they did that. I think that built confidence for them the rest of the night and took away a lot of our confidence and made us question things we were doing on both ends of the floor. We played great energy in the first half and then it was just kind of a snowball effect in the second half.”
Walters State came out of the gates blazing from 3-point range. Of the Lady Senators first six field goals, four came from beyond the arc. Walters State finished the first quarter 5 of 6 from 3-point range and hit 7 of 12 (58.3 percent) for the half.
That allowed Walters State to slowly creep out to a substantial lead. Trading threes for twos, Walters led 16-8 midway through the first quarter on the first of two treys by Jessica Wallis, who later capped a 7-0 run to end the first half with her second 3-pointer.
North Dakota was able to stay within striking distance by hitting some key free throws. Breahna Butler and Jolisa Ross both converted from the charity stripe late in the first quarter to pull the Lady Wildcats to within 20-16 and trailed 22-18 before Amber Thompson closed the period with the first of her 3-pointers to push the lead to 28-15 going into the second quarter.
From there, the Walters State defense clamped down on NDSCS, allowing just three field goals on 21 percent shooting (3 of 14). Diamond Forrest scored five points to open the second quarter for Walters, and Wallis and Thompson closed it with 3-pointers for a 39-24 advantage at the intermission.