The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Sports

March 18, 2014

NOC Enid still soaring after 74-67 win

SALINA, Kan. — The Northern Oklahoma College Enid Lady Jets’ late-season surge has been propelled by timely contributions from role players who have stepped up their game and delivered clutch performances. Tuesday, the Lady Jets added a little larceny to the equation in their 74-67 victory over Eastern Arizona in their opening round game of the women’s NJCAA national basketball tournament.

After leading by as many as 14 points, the No. 19-seed Lady Jets (22-11) saw their lead dwindle to as few as two points on a late second-half run by the No. 14-seed Lady Gila Monsters and were clinging to a 57-53 lead with just over five minutes left until sticky-fingered Kanesha Woods took matters into her own hands for NOC Enid.

On two consecutive Lady Gila Monsters possessions, Woods swiped the ball, raced down court the other way and scored. And just like that, the Lady Jets were up 61-53, giving NOC Enid enough breathing room, and the Lady Jets were able to put the game away down the stretch to secure the win and move on to the second round where their task won’t get any easier, facing the No 3 seed Hutchinson, Kan. Lady Blue Dragons (32-0), who likely will have a vociferous home crowd cheering them on in the 5 p.m. contest today.

“The timing of that was incredible,” said NOC Enid head coach Scott Morris regarding Woods’ key plays. “That was huge. She did a great job. What won’t show up in the stats is that she deflected at least 10 more passes that disrupted their offense.”

Woods finished the game with 11 points to go along with four steals. She was one of four Lady Jets to reach double figures. NOC Enid was led by Breck Clark’s 17 points – nearly matching her team-leading scoring average of 18.6 points per game. Clark also had 10 rebounds. She was followed in scoring by Rylie Swanson with 16 points and a team-high 11 rebounds, and Tierra Coffey joined Clark and Swanson with a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds.

Eastern Arizona (23-9) entered the game with a big height advantage and averaging an impressive 68.2 percent from the field, doing most of its scoring on the inside, but the Lady Jets deployed a strong defense forcing the Lady Gila Monsters to take more outside shots and limited Eastern Arizona to only 31 percent from the field once forced to the perimeter.

“We did a great job to keep them from penetrating and getting into the lane,” Morris said. “That forced them to beat us from the outside and they struggled with their shot.”

The teams started hot in the first three minutes, battling to a 9-9 tie, but cooled considerably in the remainder of the first half with NOC Enid taking a 29-20 lead into the halftime locker room, which was their biggest lead of the first half, coming on a Clark bucket just before the buzzer.

Coming out of halftime, Eastern Arizona briefly trimmed the Lady Jets’ lead to 31-25 before the Lady Jets got rolling. A Kori Barrios three gave the Lady Jets their first double-digit lead at 36-26 with NOC Enid building up a 14-point lead at 47-33 with around 12 minutes remaining, until Eastern Arizona suddenly found its scoring touch.

Shaunice Robinson’s three-pointer with just over eight minutes remaining capped a comeback effort that saw Eastern Arizona draw to within 53-51, but it would get no closer thanks to Woods’ back-to-back steals and buckets. NOC Enid restored its double-digit lead on a pair of Kiara Moore free throws to make it 72-62 with 50 seconds remaining and the Lady Jets were on their way to today’s second round.

Eastern Arizona’s Shakita Cox led all scorers with 19 points, followed by Robinson with 18.

The victory was NOC Enid’s fourth-straight win over higher-seeded opponents in the postseason, earning a trip to Salina, Kan., with previous upset wins over Murray State, Northeastern A&M and Eastern Oklahoma in the Region 2 tournament.

“It’s really been a neat situation with they way the team has come together,” Morris said, adding it’s a matter of timing and chemistry as well. “We’re playing aggressively, like we have something to prove, and we do.”

Today’s game against No. 3 seed Hutchinson will likely be the toughest test yet for the Lady Jets, who are making their first appearance in the NJCAA national tournament since 2011, when they advanced to the Final Four.

Morris said playing Hutchinson is going to be a challenge the Lady Jets are looking forward to today. “We won’t back down,” he said. “This team is excited about it.”

Today’s game can be heard on KCRC (1390 AM).

 

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