Guion, Mputu lead Eastern Florida rally and victory over No. 2 seed Shelton State, 48-45.
LUBBOCK, Texas – Leilani Guion scored 12 of her game-high 17 points in the second half, eight of which came in the decisive fourth quarter, as No. 18 seed Eastern Florida State College pulled off the big upset with a 48-45 victory over No. 2 seed Shelton State Community College in the second round of the NJCAA Women’s Division Basketball Championship Thursday at the Rip Griffin Center.
L’or Eyeba Mputu chipped in 17 points, including a pair of big buckets late in the fourth quarter, that gave the Titans (28-4) the lead for good after trailing for almost the entire game. Trailing 41-38, the Titans outscored the Bucs 10-4 over the final 7:02, which included a scoreless streak of more than 6 minutes for Shelton State (29-2).
“I just knew we were down and somebody had to step up, and I took it upon myself to step up and hopefully me stepping up gets my teammates going,” Guion said. “Even on the defensive end, I was working hard on defense, everybody was working hard on defense and that made me want to go off on offense and do whatever I can to keep us in the game.”
With the win, the Titans advance to the quarterfinals in the first national tournament appearance in school history and will face either Blinn College or Jones College in the quarterfinals at 3 p.m. on Saturday.
Eastern Florida got the job done despite being outrebounded (48-40) and with leading scorer Rapuluchi Ngorka netting just two points the entire night. But the Titans did a tremendous job putting the defensive clamps on a Shelton State team that averaged almost 87 points per game and led the nation in scoring.
Shelton hit just 32.8 percent from the floor and was a dismal 16.7 percent (3 of 18) from the 3-point line. The Bucs also committed 17 turnovers and had just one player, Nya Valentine, with double digits in scoring with 14 points.
“We’ve just got to be strong and smart,” Mputu said. “We played together and just have to be strong and close it out.”
Eastern Florida trailed 38-31 going early in the final period, but that’s when Guion took over. She scored five of the Titans’ next seven points, with her three-point play pulling them to within one at 39-38. Shelton got a bucket from Asia Barclay with 7:02 to play to go up 41-38 but would not find the basket again until a Barclay layup with 40.6 seconds to play.
In between, Eastern Florida went on a 9-0 run to take a 47-41 lead with 52 seconds to play. Barclay would score back-to-back baskets, including off a steal, to pull the Bucs to within 47-45 with 15.5 to play. Barclay had a chance to tie but missed a layup. Kaitlyn Sanders grabbed the miss and was fouled, hitting one of two free throws to seal the win.
“I think they just believed,” Baker said. “We knew that Shelton State hasn’t been in a situation that’s close since November because they’ve been blowing out everyone. So, our thing is we’ve been tested all year and had to grind it out all year in Florida, so knowing Shelton State hasn’t been in that situation and we have, gave us a lot of confidence.”
Neither team played particularly well in the first half, but the Bucs were able to get the advantage at halftime thanks to their work on the boards limiting Eastern Florida to just one shot on most trips down the floor.
The Titans shot just 21.4 percent (6 for 28) from the floor in the first 20 minutes while Shelton grabbed a decided advantage in rebounding, 29-17, including a 10-3 mark on the offensive boards.
After a sluggish start, Shelton took the early lead on a 9-2 run to end the first quarter with a 14-5 lead. Valentine had seven of her 12 first-half points during that run.
But the Titans would rally in the second as Mputu and Guion converted back-to-back three-point opportunities, and Mputu added a turnaround jumper with 3:47 left in the first half, tying the score at 16. But Shelton came back with a 7-2 run to end the half with the five-point lea at the intermission, 23-18.
Mputu led the Titans in the first half with seven points.