Enid News and Eagle
SHAWNEE, Okla. —
Who would have thought after Eastern Oklahoma demolished Northern Oklahoma College Enid 96-69 at the Mabee Center Dec. 5 that the Lady Jets would be headed to the National Junior College Women’s Tournament?
But that’s where the Lady Jets (21-11) are headed after upsetting the same No.-2 seeded Lady Mountaineers 89-73 in the Region 2 championship game at St. Gregory’s University.
The Lady Jets will find out their first-round opponent Monday when the first-round pairings for the nationals March 17-22 at Salina, Kan., are announced.
Tournament MVP Breck Clark had 27 points and three rebounds to lead the Lady Jets to their third national tournament in five years. Kiara Moore had 21 points and six rebounds, while Tierra Coffey had 16 points and 10 rebounds.
The Lady Jets’ three tournament wins came over teams (Murray State, Northeastern A&M and Eastern) they were only 1-5 against in regular season play.
“That speaks volumes for our ability to persevere and how mentally tough we finished the season,’’ siad NOC Enid head coach Scott Morris. “I’m really happy for these kids. This is a whole new group who has never experienced the national tournament.
“I was telling the radio guy (Matt Howell) that the Eastern game might have been the low point of the season. If somebody asked me then what the odds would be for us to reach nationals, I would say they would be limited, but the players came back. They accomplished what we set out to do.’’
The game resembled Friday’s 96-83 win over No. 1 seed NEO, when the Lady Jets were able to take over a fast-paced game in the final minutes.
NOC Enid, down 50-49 Saturday with approximately 10 minutes remaining, outscored Eastern 39-23 the rest of the way.
Kori Barrios canned an outside shot to make it 51-50 and ignite an 11-0 run. The closest the Lady Mountaineers could get after that was eight points.
“We were able to inch away slowly,’’ Morris said. “We got in the ebb and flow of things and figured it out. I would like to think it was our mental toughness.’’
Clark, who played her high school basketball at Dale only 15 minutes away from the St. Gregory’s gym, had 77 points in the tournament after scoring 25 against both Murray State and NEO.
“She was very deserving,’’ Morris said. “She really battled hard.’’
Rylie Swanson, held to seven points after scoring 30 and 28 the two games before, was another all-tournament selection.
“They concentrated so hard on her, that it opened it up for the other players,’’ Morris said. “That’s the beauty of teamwork.’’
Moore was a perfect 12-of-12 from the line in scoring her career-high 21 points. Moore, who came into the tournament averaging eight points, had 45 for the tournament.
Coffey’s 16 points were her highest against a conference opponent.
“They (Moore and Coffey) were a big part of this,’’ Morris said. “Everyone is playing with confidence now and that makes it fun. They are stepping out on the floor with energy and excitement.’’
Eastern led by as many as seven (25-18) at one point in the first half, but the Lady Jets used a 21-6 run over the final nine minutes to take a 39-31 halftime advantage.
The Lady Jets built on that momentum in the second half, shooting 57 percent from the field (16 of 28). Clark had 17 of her 27 points after intermission, while Moore had 12 of her 21 points in the second half.
The Lady Jets reached the nationals in both 2010 and 2011, but missed the tournament the past two seasons after entering the regionals as the No. 1 seed.
“I don’t know if this is any more rewarding than the other two, but it’s probably more surprising,’’ Morris said. “It feels great.’’
De’Amber Brice, another all-tournament selection, led Eastern with 28 points, 20 of which came in the second half. Eastern finished with a 26-6 record.
The Lady Mountaineers shot only 34.8 percent from the field and were only five of 25 from three-point range.ꆱ