No. 10 South Plains uses strong third-quarter surge to take down No. 23 Harford, 77-52
LUBBOCK, Texas – Keke Hunter tied a game-high 19 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, and No. 10 South Plains College used a 20-4 third-quarter run to take control and pull away from No. 23 Harford Community College in a 77-52 victory in the opening around of the NJCAA Division I Women’s Basketball National Championship on Monday at the Rip Griffin Center.
Showing no lingering effects from the dislocated left elbow that kept her out of the final four regular season games and forces her to wear a bulky elbow brace, guard Caroline Germond went 4-for-8 from 3-point range for her 19 points with three assists and four steals, leading the Lady Texans (29-4) into the second round of the tournament just a few miles from home.
“It’s amazing, having a point guard who executes and gets us all shots,” said Romola Dominguez, who had nine points for the Lady Texans. “Having her out was rough for us, but now that she’s back and seeing her go off like that is a blessing in disguise. She’s a great player, a great teammate and having her back really kickstarts the whole team.”
Sarah Shematsi added 11 points, six rebounds and four assists for the Lady Texans, who will face No. 7 seed Seward County Community College at noon on Wednesday.
South Plains led Harford (31-2) by just five, 37-32, with just over six minutes left in the third quarter. But a 3-pointer from Germond helped the Lady Texans take over by scoring 20 of the next 24 points over the next 41/2 minutes. Germond had eight points in the run, including a pair of 3-pointers, and Hunter chipped in seven points in the outburst.
That turned a tenuous five-point lead into a comfortable advantage at 57-36 with 2:18 to play in the period. During the run, the Lady Texan defense also turned it up, allowing just two buckets by Harford.
The 52 points by Harford was a season-low, and their only two losses have come when scoring 55 points or fewer. The Fighting Owls came into the game ranked second in the nation in scoring at 92.4 points per game.
South Plains shot a blistering 64.3 percent (9 of 14) in the period and was 3 of 6 rom 3-point range while Harford hit just 25 percent (4 of 16) and 0-for-4 from beyond the arc.
“It sounds so simple and so cliché, but we were just making shots,” SPC head coach Cayla Petree said, “I thought we played with great energy and maybe we just settled into the game a little bit and kind of started rolling.
“We’ve prided ourselves on the defensive end all year long. Harford just scores so many points. We were able to control the tempo a little bit more than maybe I had anticipated that we would with our defensive pressure.”
Dahnye Redd and Alexus King led led the Fighting Owls with 12 points each. Redd normally averages 22.3 points per game.
“I thought we weathered the storm (early) for the most part,” said Harford head coach Mike Seney, who brought his team to the national tournament for the fourth straight year. “We just struggled scoring the ball for the most part of the game, and credit South Plains. They’re long and athletic and they forced us into some tough shots. That length bothered us for most of the game, and that was the outcome.”
South Plains jumped out to a hot start, pouring on the first eight points of the game. But the Lady Texans, despite leading 15-9 at the intermission, made just two more buckets the rest of the quarter.
Despite the quick start, South Plains hit just 31 percent (9 of 29) from the field in the first half. A major part of that, however, was the five made 3-pointers that seem to come at the most opportune time with Harford starting to chip away, none bigger than the one Germond hit to kickstart the game-deciding run in the third quarter.