SALINA, Kan. —
Hutchinson, Kan., Community College entered the NJCAA women’s national basketball tournament winning its games by an average margin of 30 points. Five times they defeated teams by 50 or more points. Wednesday, they were fortunate to escape with a 77-68 overtime win over the upstart Northern Oklahoma College Enid Lady Jets.
Despite a comeback effort that saw NOC Enid erase a 12-point halftime deficit, the Lady Jets (22-12) were unable to answer a late run by the Lady Blue Dragons (33-0) as NOC Enid saw its Cinderella run come to an end.
Lady Jets head coach Scott Morris said the comeback effort was a reflection of how the team has approached matters, especially in the second-half of the season.
“That kind of epitomized or defined the perseverance this team has had over the last few weeks,” Morris said. “At halftime they showed a lot of resilience. There was just an attitude of what do we have to do to get back in there.”
NOC Enid indeed came out on fire in the second half after trailing 34-22 at halftime, going on a 15-4 run that included a 12-0 stretch that saw the Lady Jets take their first lead at 40-38 with 12 minutes left. NOC Enid blistered the Lady Blue Dragons with four consecutive three pointers in that stretch, bookended by a pair of Kori Barrios threes with Breck Clark and Rylie Swanson burying a pair of threes in between.
Clark and Alva’s Swanson each led the Lady Jets with 22 points on the night. Swanson also had 10 rebounds. The Alva product also scored the Lady Jets’ first 10 points
The teams traded the lead back and forth throughout much of the remainder of the second half until NOC Enid, following a Clark three, pulled ahead 63-58 with just two minutes remaining.
But Hutchinson showed why it is undefeated, scoring the final five points of regulation on a Jamie Patrick three-pointer and then tying the game at 63-63 with 46 seconds left when Kalani Purcell stole the ball and scored.
“Even though we stumbled (at the end of regulation), we still had the ball in our hands for the last shot, but didn’t pull it off,” Morris said.
The Lady Blue Dragons took advantage of the Lady Jets’ missed opportunity and continued their run deep into overtime. After scoring the final five points in regulation, the Lady Blue Dragons opened overtime with a pair of three pointers from Patrick and scored the first 12 points of the extra session, eventually going on a 17-0 run that carried over from regulation to open a 75-63 lead before the Lady Jets were able to score in overtime. By then the deficit was too much to overcome, and Hutchinson put the final touches on a 77-68 win to advance to the Elite Eight.
Purcell led all scorers with 23 points and had 17 rebounds. Patrick had 20 points for the Lady Blue Dragons.
While the loss was disappointing, Morris noted NOC Enid did something few other teams have accomplished against Hutchinson.
“Only two teams played them to single digits all year,” Morris said. “I know the rest of the bracket was watching this game and now thinks they are very beatable.”
The loss ended an impressive late-season run for the Lady Jets, who entered the Region 2 tournament as a five-seed and upset three straight higher seeds to advance to the national tournament, and then upended No. 14 seed Eastern Arizona Monday in the first round of the national tournament.
It also brought to a close a season of ups and downs for the Lady Jets.
“Halfway through the season I didn’t know if I have ever been more frustrated in my years as a coach, but with the way they persevered and held together, I don’t know if I have ever been prouder of a team,” Morris said. “And I really mean that.”
Wednesday’s game also was the junior college finale for Swanson.
“She had a heck of a career, a heck of a tournament,” Morris said. “She’s special. I have a lot of All-Americans on the wall and she belongs right up there. From her basketball IQ to being a team leader, she’s been great.”
NOC End was making its first appearance at the national tournament since reaching the Final Four in 2011.
HUTCHINSON, Kan. 77,
NOC ENID 68, OT
NOC ENID 22 41 5 — 68
HUTCHINSON 34 29 14 — 77
NOC: Clark 22, Swanson 22, Barrios 10, S. Kirby 6, Coffey 2, Moore 2, Perry 2, Woods 2
Hutchinson: Purcell 23, Patrick 20, Hill 17, Harding 9, Starks 6, Jones 2