The Northern Oklahoma College Enid Lady Jets steamrolled their way into the Region 2 tournament championship game with a thoroughly convincing 75-53 victory over Northeastern Oklahoma A&M Friday in Shawnee.
The win sends the third-seeded Lady Jets (21-8) into Saturday's 2 p.m. championship game on the campus of Oklahoma Baptist University against Murray State. The No. 4-seed Lady Aggies (20-12) upset No. 1 Redlands, 67-60.
NOC Enid and Murray State split their previous two games this season. NOC Enid defeated Murray State 70-64 on the road Feb. 24. Murray State won 69-62 at NOC Enid on Jan. 23.
The Lady Jets never trailed against the Lady Norse (15-14) after the opening moments of Friday's game in getting off to a fast start.
"Before the game I was telling the assistants it would be nice to not get in a 10-point hold in the first six minutes of the game." Morris said. "They did a good job of coming out early and we got them on their heels."
After closing the opening quarter with a 20-14 lead, NOC Enid quickly began to put some distance between itself and NEO.
Taelor Parker's three put the Jets up by double digits for the first time, 30-18 with five minutes left in the half. Another Parker three less than two minutes later built NOC Enid's lead to 35-20. The Lady Jets had their biggest first-half lead 35 seconds before the end of the half when Euresia Brown's three-pointer made it 42-26.
Tonijah Fortune led NOC Enid scorers in the first half with 12 points, while Lauren Wade had 10.
The Lady Jets steadily increased their lead in the third quarter, going up by 18 points when Shelby Black hit a deep three to make it 55-37. NOC Enid extended its lead to 20 points when Wade was fouled after scoring and then converting the and-1 opportunity to make it 61-41. NOC Enid led 63-44 after three.
NOC Enid opened the fourth quarter with a 12-3 run, extending its lead to as many as 28 points. With the game decided, both teams emptied their benches as the Lady Jets cruised to the win.
"We played some really good defense and stuck to the game plan," Morris said. "We didn't give up any flurries."
Wade had a team-high 21 points and nine rebounds, which Morris attributed to both Wade working inside and her teammates feeding her the ball.
"NEO has great pass defenders and (we) did a great job attacking and the guards did a nice of getting the ball to her," Morris said. "Wade is definitely coming into her own."
Fortune finished with 16 points.
Morris said making it to the national tournament was one of the goals the team set this season.
A win Saturday over Murray State would secure back-to-back NJCAA national tournament appearances for the Lady Jets and their fourth trip to nationals in the past seven years.
"They're playing real well right now," Morris said regarding Murray State. "They shoot the ball well, they spread the floor and attack. We will have to be focused defensively."
Jets' season ends in 85-63 loss
The NOC Enid men got a full dose of Region 2 MVP Rudi Williams in their semifinal game against NEO.
Williams poured in 32 points in leading the Norsemen past the Jets 85-63 Friday as the Jets (17-15) came up short of advancing to the title game.
NOC Enid grabbed an early lead and led 12-7 at the halfway point of the first half. Then Williams and the Norsemen (25-6) took over, going on an extended 24-2 run that saw them turn a five-point deficit into a 17-point lead. Williams put a punctuation mark on the Norsemen's run with a spinning no-look rifle pass to Kalil Kamara underneath the basket that extended NEO's lead to 31-14.
Ikenna Okeke's three-pointer finally broke the run by NEO that saw the Jets go scoreless for nearly seven minutes. The Norsemen held a 42-28 lead going into halftime as Williams hit a three-pointer at the buzzer, answering a three on the other end by the Jets' Jalen Stamps.
NEO opened the second-half much the same way it closed the first half, going on a 6-1 run to start the final stanza with Williams dominating the game. NEO extended its lead to 30 points at one point.
Zach McDermott, who had 34 points the night before on 7 of 8 shooting, was emblematic of the Jets' struggles, going 1 of 7 from three-point distance. The Jets were only 38% from the field to NEO's 51%. McDermott, after being held scoreless in the first half, finished with 10 points.
Ikenna Okeke led the Jets with 16 points. Stamps had 10.
NEO will face Murray State / NOC Tonkawa Saturday at 4 p.m. in the championship game.