James, Tallahassee CC run away from Wabash Valley in fourth quarter for 75-69 win
By George Watson
LUBBOCK, Texas – Juliunn Redmond scored a game-high 24 points, and No. 11 seed Tallahassee Community College completed a Wednesday second-round sweep of upsets by lower seeds, eliminating No. 6 seed Wabash Valley College from the NJCAA Division I Women’s National Basketball Tournament with a 75-69 victory at the Rip Griffin Center.
Japonica James added 19 points, 10 of those coming in a crucial stretch to start the fourth quarter, as the Lady Eagles (26-6) advance to the quarterfinals to face Florida State College Athletic Association Panhandle Conference rival Northwest Florida State, the No. 14 seed, at 7 p.m. Thursday.
“I felt like my team needed me and my coach wanted me to step up, too,” James said. “I felt like they had my back (Tuesday) and I felt I had to take over because they handled things (Tuesday). I had to give them my all just for them. I knew I was quicker than their post players and their guards, too. I just had to use my quickness to my advantage.”
James scored eight straight points during a stretch early in the fourth quarter that helped the Lady Eagles turn a 55-45 deficit with two minutes to play in the third into a 60-59 lead with just over six minutes to play. Then, tied at 69 with 43 seconds left, Tallahassee finished the game on a 6-0 run, including four points from Nakiah Black (11 points), to seal the win.
“The fourth quarter in both games has been the difference between us still being here and taking a long bus ride back home,” Tallahassee head coach Franqua “Q” Bedell said. “Free throws killed us, I thought we missed too many free throws but the girls outrebounded them by three and did a great job on the boards.”
Wabash Valley came into the tournament with the top offense in the country, averaging almost 95 points per game. But Tallahassee did a good job of controlling the tempo defensively to keep the scoring down.
But the Warriors shot just 27.3 percent in the fourth quarter while committing 25 turnovers for the game, which led to 24 points for Tallahassee.
Tallahassee led by two at the intermission, and neither team led by more than three for the first part of the third quarter until the Warriors went on a 9-0 run, getting a pair of layups in transition from Mariah McCully to take a 55-45 lead with 1:50 to play in the third.
Wabash Valley held off Tallahassee as long as it could, but consecutive layups from James put Tallahassee up 60-59, and the Lady Eagles never trailed again.
McCully led the Warriors with 20 points while Marie Hunter added 14 and Ashley Moore 13 in the loss.
The largest lead by any team in the first half was eight by Tallahassee after a 3-pointer by Juliunn Redmond gave the Lady Eagles a 28-20 lead with 6:05 to play in the second quarter. But the Warriors responded with a 10-5 run, tying the game at 30 on a Marie Hunter layup with 3:42 left in the first half.
Trailing by one late in the quarter, Tallahassee used a 6-0 outburst to go up 37-32 with 1:39 to play, but Wabash Valley came right back to pull to within two at halftime at 39-37 on a Hunter layup with two seconds left.
Both teams shot the ball decently in the first half, Tallahassee hitting 39.5 percent (15 of 38) from the field and Wabash Valley hitting on 47.2 percent (17 of 36). Wabash Valley, however, was halted somewhat by 11 turnovers that le to 12 Tallahassee points.
Redmond led Tallahassee in the first half with 15 points while McCully and Hunter had 12 each and Moore 11 for the Warriors.