New Mexico Junior College uses strong second half to outlast Jones County, 78-67
LUBBOCK, Texas – No. 8 New Mexico Junior College used a strong second quarter to put No. 9 Jones County Junior College at arm’s length and hold the Bobcats at bay for a 78-67 victory in the second around of the NJCAA Division I Women’s Basketball National Championships on Tuesday at the Rip Griffin Center.
Thamires Andrade led four Thunderbirds (27-5) in double figures with 18 points to go with eight rebounds and three assists, pushing NMJC into the quarterfinals to face No. 1 Wabash Valley at 1 p.m. on Thursday.
Eternati Willock Sydnee Wynn added 15 points and 10 rebounds for NMJC, which used a 11-0 run early in the second quarter to take control of the game and a 12-3 run over the final 3:25 of the period to re-establish the lead after Jones County (28-3) had closed to within five.
“I’m really proud of our girls,” NMJC head coach Drew Sanders said. “I feel like we did a really good job of executing throughout the first half and the first part of the third quarter. We’re a team that transition is our friend and we got some transition baskets and that helped us. That kind of loosened up the defense and we were able to get the ball inside.”
Amaya Lewis chipped in 11 points for NMJC, which also dominated in the paint with 52 points, 29 of that from the 6-foot-2 Wynn and 6-foot-3 Willock.
“I think me and Eternati’s high-low game is unstoppable at this point,” Wynn said. “That’s been our go to, and we can switch it out, it doesn’t matter. That’s probably the best thing going for us at this point.”
If not for the second-quarter outburst, the game might have turned out differently. Jones County did a good job of defending the NMJC 3-point shooters (2 for 13) and forced 20 turnovers to just 14 for the Bobcats.
But every time they seemed to be on the precipice of closing the gap, the Thunderbirds would find a way to either extend the lead or get a defensive stop. It didn’t help that during the decisive second quarter, head coach Missy Bilderback had to be careful with guards Destiny Haymer and Breonca Ducksworth picking up two early fouls, forcing them to sit on the bench.
“I thought it was a winnable game for us,” Bilderback said. “I thought New Mexico was really good and their post play was the difference in the game. Our guards play a lot of minute and when (Ducksworth and Haymer) picked up two there, there’s so much time left in the second you feel like you’ve got to get them out and not let them get that third fouls that early in the game. And it got away from us before we could really get them back in.”
Haymer led all scorers with 21 points and Keyara Jones added 20 points and four of the Bobcats’ six 3-pointers. Kyia Weathersby chipped in 10 points in the loss.
The two teams traded punches for much of the first half, with Jones County doing most of its damage outside and New Mexico JC dominating down low.
Jones hit three of her four first-half 3-pointers in the first quarter to help the Bobcats forge a 17-13 lead late in the first half. But NMJC answered by opening the second quarter on a 7-2 run to lead 22-19 just two minutes into the period.
It was, however, only a hint of things to come.
Leading by just one at 22-21, Amaya Lewis hit back-to-back buckets and Jumee President added a 3-pointer from the right corner to kickstart a game-changing 11-0 run, putting the Thunderbirds up 33-21.
Jones County answered with seven straight points from Jones, including her fourth 3-pointer of the half, but the Thunderbirds came right back with eight straight points, all of them from under the basket or at the free-throw line. That put NMJC ahead 41-28, leading to a 45-31 lead at the intermission.
It stayed a double-digit lead until early in the fourth quarter when Ducksworth hit a jumper and Haymer drained a deep 3-pointer from the right wing to pull the Bobcats to within nine at 60-51. But NMJC answered with five straight points to re-establish the lead and was never challenged again.