NMJC overcomes Wabash Valley rally to take down No. 1 Warriors, 63-59
LUBBOCK, Texas – Eternati Willock tied a team high with 16 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, and New Mexico Junior College watched a 17-point lead disappear then held on at the end to upset No. 1 Wabash Valley, 63-59, in the quarterfinals of the NJCAA Division I Women’s Basketball National Championships on Thursday at the Rip Griffin Center.
Thamires Andrade added 13 points, including two game-clinching free throws with 4.4 seconds to play, as the Thunderbirds (28-5) move on to face either Hutchinson Community College of Western Junior College Athletic Conference rival Odessa College at 4 p.m. on Friday with a shot to play for the title.
“Tremendous first half and then we came out in the third quarter and wasn’t as aggressive, and we know they’d make a run,” NMJC head coach Drew Sanders said. “They increased their intensity on defense and the press and we weren’t at the same intensity as they were after halftime, and we let them make their run. But the girls showed a lot of mental toughness to give up that lead and were able to come back and win the game.”
NMJC led by 17 early in the third quarter before the Warriors (32-1) showed why they came into the tournament as the top seed. Wabash pushed a 13-0 run early in the third to eat into the Thunderbird lead, then got seven straight points midway through the fourth quarter, five of them coming from Jordyn Dawson, to take a 59-54 lead. But NMJC answered by scoring the final nine points of the game to regain the lead and come away with the win.
“I guess we were playing not to lose instead of playing to win,” Willock said. “It was a little frustrating at times but we tried to keep it positive and in the end we did and came up with the win.
“I remember coach telling us in the huddle that this wasn’t going to happen. We gave up a lead before and we said this time it wasn’t going to happen, and that really hit home for us and we weren’t going to give up.”
The 59 points by Wabash Valley is a season low and just shy of 40 points under the Warriors’ season average of 98.4. NMJC also won the rebounding battle (42-36) and forced 19 Wabash Valley turnovers.
That helped the Thunderbirds forge a 37-22 halftime lead which grew to 39-22 early in the third before Wabash Valley started its comeback.
The Warriors had three chances to win or tie late, but each time the Thunderbirds defense came up with the stop of the rebound, and Andrade sealed it late.
“We got some good shots after (taking the lead). I thought we attacked the lane and thought we had some layups,” Wabash Valley head coach Jack Trosper said. “It was just one of those things where sometimes the ball just doesn’t fall your way. I can’t discredit our girls at all, they played hard and battled back into it to get the lead and then the basketball gods just weren’t looking on us on some of those missed shots and some of those layups.”
Jumee President added 16 points for the Thunderbirds, including four of the team’s five 3-point baskets.
Jordyn Dean and Michela White led Wabash Valley with 12 points apiece, with Dawson also recording 12 rebounds, while Marie Hunter scored all 11 of her points and all three 3-pointers during the Warriors’ third-quarter rally.
The Thunderbirds defense was outstanding from the start. New Mexico did not allow Wabash to hit consecutive buckets from the 4:07 mark of the first quarter to the end of the half, and that helped erase an early deficit.
Trailing 13-9, the Thunderbirds went on a 10-2 run to go up 19-15. Jumee President had one of her two first-half 3-pointers to start the run, and Thamires Andrade capped it with a layup with 31 seconds to go in the first period.
It would only get worse for Wabash from there, as NMJC capped the first half with a 10-0 run to go up 37-22 at the intermission.