Game 18

Saturday - March 19, 2022

  • #18 Eastern Florida - 62
  • #23 Jones - 64

Jones rallies for overtime victory over Eastern Florida, earns berth in semifinals


LUBBOCK, Texas – Sakyia White scored a team-high 16 points, and Jordan Clark’s 3-pointer from the right wing with 5.3 seconds left in regulation sent the game to overtime, and Jones College rallied for a 64-62 victory over Eastern Florida State College in the quarterfinals of the NJCAA Women’s Division I Basketball Championship on Saturday at the Rip Griffin Center.


White hit the go-ahead bucket on a layup with a minute left in the game, putting Jones (31-4) up 63-62, then Meloney Thames added a free throw to finish with 15 points for the Bobcats. Eastern Florida (28-5) had one last chance at the win, but Kaitlyn Sanders missed a 3-pointer from the top of the key and White grabbed her 14th rebound to secure the win.


“I’ve been in the gym every day and that’s just what I do,” Clark said of the game-tying bucket. “My team believes in me, and I just went with it.”


With the victory, Jones advances to the semifinals and will take on either Georgia Highlands or Trinity Valley at 6 p.m. on Sunday for a shot at the title game.


Jones was able to advance by overcoming the outstanding game by Eastern Florida’s Rapuluchi Ngorka, who set a national tournament single-game record with 26 rebounds to go with her game-high 21 points. Three of those rebounds came in a sequence that gave the Titans their last lead of the game at 62-61 when she converted two free throws with 1:50 to play.


But it would be the last points the Titans would score as Jones rallied for the win.


“That’s been the story of our year,” Jones head coach Missy Bilderback said after the game. “A little adversity, things just don’t go our way, but the kids never quit. It was fitting. I told them right before the game this was meant to be. We’ve never had an opportunity to be in a final four in the national tournament. We’ve been here a lot and so this team was meant to do that.”


Ngorka almost single-handedly willed the Titans to the victory with her second-half effort. She had a sequence late in the fourth quarter where she hit a putback shot, got a block on the other end then hit one of two free throws after an offensive rebound to put Eastern Florida up 55-52 with 11.2 seconds remaining.


But White took the ball off an inbounds pass near the Jones bench and was left open from about 25 feet, hitting nothing but net to tie the game and send it to overtime.


Ngorka twice gave Eastern Florida the lead in overtime, once on a three-point play and the other on two free throws with 1:50 to play before Jones rallied for the win.


Eastern Florida held the edge in rebounding for the game at 54-41, but the Titans managed just 15 second-chance points off those boards.


“Coach Bilderback always preached about going hard and being tough and doing the work early, things like that,” said Ashlynn Freeman, who battled with Ngorka down low for most of the game. “Sometimes it feels like we’re getting beat up, but I know that my teammates had my back and believe in me … and all of us want to keep this thing going. There wasn’t a thought in my mind we were going to lose this game.”


Clark finished with 14 points for the Bobcats. Sanders chipped in 14 for the Titans.


Both teams came out of the gate hitting some big shots, and Eastern Florida grabbed the early lead with an 8-0 run that was part of a first quarter where the Titans hit six of their first eight shots.


From there, however, it was all Jones. After starting so well, Eastern Florida made just three baskets the rest of the first half and finished the half hitting just 29 percent (9 of 31) from the field.


Jones took advantage to take control of the game midway through the second quarter. Down 23-22, the Bobcats scored seven straight points capped by a 3-pointer from Arianna Patton off the bench to take a 30-22 lead, and the Bobcats extended it to 35-25 at halftime.


The Bobcats also drained 5 of 12 3-point attempts, four from Thames, who tied with White for 10 points in the first half to lead Jones.


Ngorka led Eastern Florida with 10 points as well.