Three Rivers holds off Western Nebraska for berth in the semifinals
LUBBOCK, Texas – When it comes to shutting down the shooters for Three Rivers College, opposing defenses might as well flip a coin. When one is cold, someone else always seems to be warming up.
On Thursday, with a seemingly comfortable lead suddenly jeopardized by a cold spell to start the fourth quarter, Lady Raiders head coach Alex Wiggs needed someone to step up and stop the bleeding. What he got was a little bit from everyone.
Three River watched as Western Nebraska whittled a 19-point halftime lead down to one early in the fourth quarter before regaining its offensive rhythm and getting some key stops to outlast the Cougars, 79-71, in the quarterfinals of the NJCAA Division I Women’s Basketball National Championships at the Rip Griffin Center.
Clinging to a 60-59 lead, the Lady Raiders (24-0) scored nine straight to re-established a double-digit lead, then went a perfect 8-for-8 from the free-throw line in the final two minutes to seal the win and reach the national semifinals for what Wiggs believes is the first time in school history.
“We’ve watched just about every game here, and teams don’t make the elite eight by accident,” Wiggs said. “We knew they were going to come back and hit us and try to go on a run, but I thought our girls did a good job of remaining calm, keeping their composure and going on a run of their own to win the game.”
The Lady Raiders will face either South Plains College or Northwest Florida State in the semifinals at 4 p.m. on Friday while Western Nebraska, which upset No. 1 Jones College the day before, ends its season at 17-6.
For a minute, however, it appeared the Cougars would pull off another upset, and do so in dramatic style. Trailing 58-47 early in the fourth quarter, Western Nebraska opened the period with a 10-0 run, getting seven points from Payton Fields in the spurt, to pull to within one at 58-57.
But the Cougars could not completely close the gap as Joi Montgomery, Autumn Dodd and Myia Yelder all took turns taking over during an 11-4 run that put the Lady raiders up 71-63. Yelder and Jamiyah Thomas combined to each hit four free throws in the final two minutes to send the Lady Raiders on to the next round.
“I thought every person on the team did a great job,” Wiggs said. “We’ve done this all year long as far as just how deep we are. When somebody’s off or somebody’s having a bad game, another person steps up and makes those contributions that we need to win the game.”
Thomas finished as the leading scorer for the Lady Raiders with 18 points, Dodd added 14 and Hya Haywood 11.
The Raiders followed the same script in the first quarter, coming out of the gate ice cold from the floor. They missed nine of their first 10 shots and five of their first six from 3-point range through the first 51/2 minutes of the contest. But when Autumn Dodd hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key, it seemed to open the flood gates.
Dodd’s trey came as the Raiders went on a 15-6 run to end the quarter, with Chaylea Mosby draining a pair of treys from the left side and Haywood hitting on another from the right side. After starting the first quarter so horribly, Three Rivers hit five of its next eight shots from the field, including 4 of 5 from 3-point range.
That outburst put the Raiders up 21-15 at the end of the period, but it was only the beginning of an outstanding first half.
After Shanti Henry hit a trey to open the second quarter for Western Nebraska and pull the Cougars within a bucket, Haywood and Joi Montgomery hit consecutive layups to start a 13-2 run that put the Raiders comfortably in front, 34-20.
Karlee Holland would add another 3-pointer for Three Rivers before the end of the quarter, and the Raiders ended the first half on a 7-0 run to take a 44-25 advantage into the halftime lockerroom.
Western Nebraska opened the second half with a 10-0 run to close to within 10, but the Lady Raiders spend the next five minutes of the game pushing the lead back to 15 and setting up the fourth-quarter dramatics.
Lidsey Mahoukou led Western Nebraska with 19 points and Ashley Panem added 14. Ale’jah Douglas and Payton Fields added 11 each.