Hot start, solid defense propels Tyler JC to upset of South Georgia Tech
LUBBOCK, Texas – Confidence is a fickle beast. One minute it is your best friend, the next minute it acts like it never heard of you.
Thursday night, at least during the first half of their second-round game at the NJCAA Division I Women’s National Championships, confidence was the best friend of the 11th-seeded Tyler Junior College Apaches, and they embraced their new compadre to the tune of a strong defensive effort and timely shooting for a 72-53 upset of No. 6 seed South Georgia Tech at the Rip Griffin Center.
Taryn Wills and Veonce Powe combined to score 33 points, each taking turns with the hot hand, and the Apaches held the Jets to 24 points below their offensive season average in securing the win.
“When those kids are knocking down shots, they have more confidence in their defense, they have more confidence in their game and our team has more confidence in everything,” Tyler head coach Trenia Tillis Hoard said. “It’s just one thing leads to another, and it’s like a jigsaw puzzle. It all fits when we make it fit.”
With the win, the Apaches advance to Thursday’s quarterfinals where they will face No. 3 seed Chipola at 7 p.m. Another game like the first to Tyler has played and they might just find themselves in the semifinals.
South Georgia Tech, which saw its season end at 22-4, shot just 31.6 percent from the field, and their dismal start (12.5 percent in the first quarter) proved to be too much of a hole to climb out of. The Jets came into the game 20th in the nation in scoring offense at 77.6 points per game but had just 35 through the first three quarters and trailed 51-35 going into the final period.
Defensively, the Jets struggled to contain Tyler’s shooters. Wills had 11 of her 17 in the first half, and Powell followed suit with 11 of her 16 in the first two quarters, allowing the Apaches to build a 40-24 halftime lead.
“This little group has been doing this all year long,” Tillis Hoard said. “Our defense is our offense and they take pride in it. They do such a great job and they don’t complain about it. It’s like their M.O. It’s fun to watch them when they’re in their element and when they’re in their zone.”
Debora Ogayemi added 12 points and 14 rebounds for the Apaches, who outrebounded South Georgia Tech 48-32.
Moe Shida led the Jets with 12 points.
Tyler’s confidence started almost from the opening tip. Wills broke a 3-3 tie with a layup, and Powell followed with back-to-back 3-pointers. After a Nadechka Laccen layup, Tia Morgan hit consecutive treys around an Abby Solway 3-pointer, the second Morgan trey coming on a last-second heave from halfcourt that found nothing but net and gave Tyler a 19-6 lead at the end of the period.
Tyler drained 5 of 6 from 3-point range in the first half and was 7 of 14 for the first half. Tyler also dominated on the boards, outrebounding South Georgia Tech 29-14.
South Georgia Tech scored five early points in the second quarter, but the Apaches answered with the run that defined the half. Tyler JC went on a 17-2 run that saw Wills hit three mid-range jumpers, while Nala Hemingway added a jumper and a three-point play. Wills and Powell then hit back-to-back 3-pointers, and with 2:56 left the half, Tyler had built a 36-13 lead.
South Georgia Tech was ice-cold from the field in the first quarter, shooting just 12.5 percent, and through the first seven minutes of the second quarter had hit just two buckets. But the Jets found a spurt of their own to end the half on an 8-2 run, getting consecutive treys from Veronica Charles and Moe Shida to cut their deficit to 16 at the intermission.
South Georgia Tech tried desperately to cut into the Tyler lead all throughout the second half and got as close as 12 early in the third quarter, but could never get the deficit under double digits.
“We knew we had to play tremendous defense,” Tillis Hoard said. “We knew South Georgia Tech has been strategizing for us for 11-12 days where we were having to play basketball games, and we thought that was to our advantage. We got that (first game) under our belt and got rid of all the nerves and jitters, and got ready to play. We played solid defense and everybody was helping somebody else. Our motivation was we’ve got to help each other because we can’t do it ourselves.”
Their friend, confidence, also helped.