Pinto, Poa power Northwest Florida past South Plains and into semifinals
LUBBOCK, Texas – Chanaya Pinto was back to her old self, and that was welcome news for Northwest Florida State head coach Bart Walker.
Pinto, the do-everything, All-American sophomore forward for the Raiders who suffered a knee injury in their regional tournament semifinal loss to Gulf Coast State on April 9, showed not only her scoring prowess but her versatility in doing so, hitting from inside and outside the paint, and South Plains College had no answer.
Pinto scored 23 points to go with four steals and four rebounds, and Last-Tear Pinto added a team-high 24 points to lead the Raiders to a 63-54 victory over the Lady Texans in the quarterfinals of the NJCAA Division I Women’s National Championships on Thursday at the Rip Griffin Center.
“That’s the best game she’s played in a month and a half,” Walker said of Pinto. “Big-time players are supposed to show up in big moments and I couldn’t be more proud of her. Last-Tear played well on the offensive end. You’ve got to have multiple weapons to be in this tournament. Those two are special players, and we’re all about team at Northwest. We run it through everybody.”
With the win, the Raiders (22-2) advance to the semifinals where they will face Three Rivers on Friday at 4 p.m. South Plains ends its season at 20-4.
While Pinto was doing work on the inside, Poa was nearly unconscious from the 3-point line, hitting on 5 of 8 shots from the outside. More importantly, they seemed to come when Northwest Florida State needed to either stretch their lead or dampen any rally South Plains tried to put together.
The scoring of those two coupled with another solid performance from the leading defensive team in the country was simply too much for South Plains to overcome.
Northwest Florida came out of the gates blazing from the field, hitting 57.1 percent of its shots in the first 10 minutes, including a 10-0 run after SPC had opened the game with a 3-pointer. Poa had both of her first-half 3-pointers in that stretch to put the Raiders up 10-3, and they were off and running from there.
The Raiders forced South Plains in to 16 turnovers that led to 21 Northwest Florida points, and its aggressiveness on the offense end paid off to the tune of going 15-for-19 from the free-throw line compared to just 9-of 14 for the Lady Texans.
“I thought we started out good,” Walker said. “We got a couple kids in foul trouble and that kind of changed our rotation a bit, but I thought we played steady. There’s going to be ebbs and flows and they’re going to make a run, but I’m proud of how they finished the game.”
Trailing 45-39 to start the fourth quarter, the Lady Texans did make one last run, opening the final stanza with a 5-1 run to pull to within 46-44. But Pinto answered with buckets on three consecutive possessions, and she helped ice the game by hitting four of six free throw attempts in the final minute.
Grace Hunter led the Lady Texans with 17 points and was 4-for-7 from the 3-point line while Dobora Reis added 14 points and 12 rebounds for SPC.
“I thought we played it exactly like we wanted to,” Walker said. “We did a little bit of a lazy job on (Reis) and I know that is a priority for them, and she got some touches down there we shouldn’t have given up. But (Hunter) hit some big-time shots on us even though that’s the way we wanted to guard it. It was a hard-fought win.”