No. 1 Shelton State races away from No. 17 Odessa College for 81-57 victory
By George Watson
LUBBOCK, Texas – Cierra Johnson poured in a game-high 20 points, and No. 1 seed Shelton State Community College raced out to a huge lead through three quarters to oust No. 17 seed Odessa College from the NJCAA Division I Women’s National Basketball Championship with an 81-57 victory at the Rip Griffin Center on Tuesday.
Ataiya Bridges added 14 points for the Lady Bucs (34-0), who will face either New Mexico Junior College or ASA-Brooklyn College in the quarterfinals at 1 p.m. on Thursday.
Shelton State used great starts in both the first and third quarter to initially build a big lead and then put the game away to where even a sub-par fourth quarter wasn’t enough to allow Odessa College (23-11) to get back into the game.
“I thought we looked like a team that could compete for a national championship for about three quarters, and that fourth quarter was a complete disaster,” Shelton State head coach Madonna Thompson said. “We looked hungry, we looked like every possession mattered. We looked like we were communicating and talking on defense. On offense we were working and taking the best shot that we could get. That fourth quarter we got undisciplined and relaxed, and we’re just not good enough to do that, and it showed.”
Johnson, an all-tournament selection from 2017, was the catalyst for the Lady Bucs, draining three of her four 3-pointers in the final two minutes of the second quarter, which gave Shelton State a 39-24 lead at halftime.
“With the experience from last year, I know how to play, and I know what not to do, and all the small things, the little things that coach talks about,” Johnson said. “I’m more educated than I was as a freshman and more comfortable than the rest of the team because I played those big minutes last year. So, this is just another game.”
Shelton State then all but put the game out of reach with an 8-0 run to extend its lead to 49-26 with 6:54 to play in the third quarter. Finally, the Lady Bucs scored 20 of the final 26 points of the third to lead 69-36 going into the fourth quarter.
After losing forward Leticia Soares to fouls with 9 minutes to play, the Lady Wranglers outscored Shelton State 19-4 to close to within 75-57 but could get no closer.
“I thought Shelton State played really, really well,” said Odessa head coach Ara Baten, whose team was eliminated by Shelton State in the quarterfinals of the national tournament a year ago. “I thought they came out very prepared and ran their stuff really well.
“We were just trying to stay with what we normally do. When push came to shove, they did a really good job of executing their stuff on the offensive end and then really created some problems for us defensively.”
Margaret Robinson added 12 points and Dana Echols 10 for the Lady Bucs, who scored 26 points in transition off of 26 Odessa turnovers.
Shannon Dozier led the Lady Wranglers with 16 points. Chinna Fair added 13 points and Soares 10.
The Lady Bucs came out of the gate like they were the No. 1 team and showed why, scoring the first six points of the contest as Robinson scored four of her 10 first-half points in the first two minutes. Then, after Odessa had pulled to within 7-5 on a Dozier trey, Shelton State went on a 10-0 run to take control of the game at 17-5 with 1:42 left in the opening period.
Odessa, however, wouldn’t go away. Down 24-8 early in the second, the Lady Wranglers scored seven straight points to get back to within single digits. From there the teams traded outbursts until Johnson took over the game.
Odessa College shot just 21.4 percent (3 of 14) in the first quarter, which allowed Shelton State to get out to the quick start, and the Lady Bucs took advantage by hitting 64.3 percent (9 of 17) in the first quarter ad 55 percent (11 of 20) in the third.
“It’s so important to really set the tone, whether it be the first half or the second half, or now that we’ve gone to quarters, to set the tone at the beginning of the quarter,” Thompson said. “So, you put the five out there that are fresh and ready to go and get after it and are focused.”