Game 14

Wednesday - April 21, 2021

  • #5 Northwest Florida State - 67
  • #21 Otero Junior College - 43

Northwest Florida State smothers Otero for 67-43 victory


LUBBOCK, Texas – Like most teams that have to wait three days to begin their run at the national tournament, No. 5 seed Northwest Florida State got off to the not-all-too unexpected slow start offensively.

But once the Raiders got their offense in gear, Otero College never stood a chance.

The Raiders outscored the Rattlers 27-4 from the 6:11 mark of the second quarter to the 6:55 mark of the third, and that allowed Northwest Florida State to rally from a seven-point deficit to take a 67-43 victory over Otero in the second round of the NJCAA Division I Women’s Basketball National Championships on Wednesday at the Rip Griffin Park.

“When you haven’t played a game in 11 days and the other team played the other night, you’re going to have some rust,” Northwest Florida State head coach Bart Walker said. “I don’t like unforced errors and turnovers were from bad decisions. But once we got going, we started guarding a little better an got our feet under us, and I was proud of how we did great job on the board and taking them away from what they really wanted to do.”

With the win, the Raiders (21-2) advance to Thursday’s quarterfinals where they will face No. 4 seed South Plains College at 5 p.m. Otero, which upset Butler Community College in the opening round on Monday, ends its season at 18-4.

Not only did the Raiders find their offensive rhythm, but the nation’s leading defense also showed up.

Northwest Florida State came into the tournament with the No. 1 ranked defense in the country, allowing just 48.5 points per game and held Otero to 24 points under their season average.

Leah Mafua hit a layup off a steal with 5:38 to play in the second quarter to put Otero up 24-18, but would not find the bottom of the bucket again until the 5:47 mark of the second quarter, almost a full quarter’s worth of time off the clock, and managed just two free throws in between. That allowed Northwest Florida State to go on a 24-2 run to take a 42-26 lead.

“We put our hat on (defense),” Walker said. “We’re going to try to guard you and I thought we had a couple breakdowns today, and that’s OK, you’re going to have some of those. But I really like this team, and when they get going defensively they’re pretty good because they do a good job of covering everything.”

It took awhile for the Northwest Florida offense to get going, but once it did, Otero had no way to stem the tide.

It started with an Ines Piper 3-pointer from the right corner after Otero had built a 22-15 lead through the first few minutes of the second quarter. After the layup by Mafua, Last-Tear Poa drained a trey from the right wing, and Masengo Mutanda added another from the top of the key, and the Raiders were off and running.

Northwest Florida scored the final 15 points of the half and closed the second quarter with an 18-2 run to take a 33-24 lead at the intermission.

The Raiders found their stroke in the second quarter, shooting 47.1 percent (8 of 17) from the floor and 62.5 percent (5 of 8) from 3-point range. Poa and Mutanda each finished with eight points in the first half.

Otero, meanwhile, cooled off in the second quarter, shooting just 27.3 percent (3 of 11) and committing eight of its 10 first-half turnovers in the period. The highlight was the shot Rosie Mafua hit from the other side of half court at the buzzer to give Otero a 17-10 lead. But the Rattlers could not hang on to that momentum and were outscored 23-7 in the second period.

It was more of the same in the second half as the Raiders shot 44.8 percent (13 for 29) after halftime while holding the Rattlers to just 33 percent (7 of 21).

Mutanda led the Raiders with 15 points followed by Shelbee Brown with 14 points and 10 rebounds, and Poa finished with 12 points.

Mafua led the Rattlers with 13 points