South Plains holds off Northwest Florida, eliminates defending champs, 54-50.
LUBBOCK, Texas – Raija Todd hit two free throws with 20.7 seconds left, and Ashala Moseberry sealed it with two more with 1.8 to play, and South Plains College knocked defending national champion and NO. 4 seed Northwest Florida State College out of the NJCAA Women’s Division I Basketball Championship, 54-50, on Friday at the Rip Griffin Center.
Todd and Moseberry each scored 14 points and combined for the final eight points of the game for SPC (22-8), which had to hold off a furious rally thanks to the pressure defense from Northwest Florida (27-3), which had two chances to tie the game in the final 10 seconds but could not come up with the tying bucket.
“I thought we played really well defensively,” SPC head coach Ara Baten said. “I thought we forced them to take some tough shots early on, and we rebounded the ball really well. We got off to a good start and that was important. When you play a great team like that, that start can be really important, and for us to get off to the start we did, I thought that set the tone for us.”
With the win, the Lady Texans advance to the quarterfinals to face either Wabash Valley College or Western Nebraska Community College at 3 p.m. on Saturday.
The Raiders beat the Lady Texans in the second around of the 2021 national tournament and had twice beaten South Plains this season, once around Thanksgiving and the other on New Year’s Eve. But in the 2022 national tournament, the Lady Texans led for all but 1:57 of the game, getting some big defensive stops in the final 30 seconds to hang on to the lead.
The Raiders dominated in the paint, outscoring SPC 32-14. But the Lady Texans did a good job on the boards, being outrebounded by just one, 39-38, and that allowed Northwest Florida just nine second-chance points.
“That’s huge for us,” Baten said. “That’s probably the No. 1 reason I’m sitting here is because we did not let them control the glass.”
Northwest Florida took its last lead of the game at 40-39 when Last-Tear Poa capped a personal 7-0 run to put the Raiders ahead. But a technical foul on Poa after taking the lead sent Todd to the free throw line, and she hit both shots then followed with a 3-pointer from the top of the key, and the Lady Texans never trailed again.
Moseberry drained her fourth 3-pointer of the game on a shot from the right corner with 1:59 to play to put SPC up 49-41, but Shelbee Brown came back with three straight points, and Masengo Mutanda added a free throw to cut the deficit to 49-45.
Trailing 52-47, Northwest Florida got a steal, and Nashani Gilbert came off the bench to hit a deep 3-pointer from the right wing to get the Raiders to within a bucket at 52-50.
Asjah Innis came up with a steal and drove the length of the floor, but missed the layup, the ball going out of bounds off SPC. On the ensuing inbounds, Poa missed a contested layup, with the ball going out of bounds off Northwest Florida. Moseberry grabbed the inbounds pass at halfcourt and was fouled, sinking her two game-clinching free throws to send SPC to the quarterfinals.
“It wasn’t an executing thing as much as they are just big and athletic and fight through screens and are difficult to deal with,” Baten said. “They played with some urgency and were in the passing lanes and there wasn’t much open. We had some bad turnovers, but we had some that were (because of) good defense. But we did turn it around and not get down on it and got the stops when we needed and got some big rebounds and made a couple of plays when we needed to.”
Viktoria Ivanova added 11 points for the Lady Texans while Celia Sumbane chipped in 10 points.
Poa led all scorers with 18 points for the Raiders.