WSCC Lady Senators season ends in Salina
SALINA, Kan. — The Walters State Lady Senators shook off the rust in time to get themselves back in the game, but a bad night at the free throw line cost them a spot in the NJCAA National Tournament’s final eight.
The sixth ranked Lady Senators missed 11 free throws in the second half and dropped a 65-60 decision to fifth ranked Northwest Florida State in the second round of the national tournament inside the Salina Bicentennial Center.
The loss ends the season for Walters State with a 29-2 record and a ninth place finish in the national tournament, and it also halted their 23-game winning streak.
The win moved Northwest Florida to 26-4 on the year and into tonight’s quarterfinals against third ranked Hutchinson (Kan.) with a spot in the Final Four on the line.
“We struggled at the free throw line and we didn’t play well until late in the first half,” Lady Senators coach Dave Kragel said. “Against teams in the national tournament, it’s hard to bounce back from that, but we never quit battling.
“We got down 13 in the first half and took the lead, then came back from eight and led again. We just couldn’t finish it off. It’s hard to see the season come to an end like this, but I’m proud of this team and what they accomplished.”
The Lady Senators held an early 4-2 lead, but a 6-0 run by the Raiders gave them the lead, which they held the rest of the half. Northwest Florida led 14-8 midway through the half, and they used a 14-7 spurt to build the lead to 28-15 with 5:54 showing.
Walters State snapped out of their offensive funk after the run by the Raiders to put together a spurt of their own to close the half. The Lady Senators forced a majority of Northwest Florida’s 10 first half turnovers in the final six minutes, and Donnesha Shuler sparked the offense.
Shuler tossed in 10 points in the half, with most coming in a 13-3 run to end the half that pulled Walters State within 31-28 at halftime and gave them momentum entering the final 20 minutes.
The Lady Senators pulled closer despite shooting only 37.5 percent (12 of 32) in the half, and they made just 2 of 10 from long range. Monashia Bolduc added six points and Caprisha Rogers had five points for Walters State in the opening 20 minutes.
The Raiders shot 45.5 percent (10 of 22) from the field in the half but came up empty on all four 3-point attempts. They took advantage of frequent trips to the free throw line, making 11 of 16 from the charity stripe.
Bolduc scored two of the first four buckets for the Lady Senators of the second half to take a 36-35 lead with 15:09 left in the game.
“We made a big time run to get back in the lead in a situation where a lot of teams could just roll over and quit,” Kragel said. “But this team kept battling and battling, but we came up a little short.”
The Raiders responded with a quick 9-0 spurt, including back-to-back 3-pointers from Tavarsha Scott and Rudiane Eduardo, to take a 44-36 lead with 11:50 to go.
Walters State battled back, as Aisjah Roan got hot and scored six points in a 17-6 run that put the Lady Senators on top 53-50 with 6:32 left to play. A bucket by Samantha Donald, a long 3-pointer by Kiani Parker and a bucket by Scott helped the Raiders claim a 57-53 lead, but a 3-pointer by Bre Hall cut the Lady Senators margin to a single point.
The Raiders responded with eight straight points, before two free throws from Roan and a bucket underneath by Gaby Gilmore closed out the scoring.
Northwest Florida shot 40.4 percent (23 of 57) in the contest, including 5 of 17 from the 3-point line. Parker led the Raiders with 15 points, while Scott added 14 in the win.
Walters State shot just 34.3 percent (23 of 67) in the contest, and made just 9 of 20 from the free throw line. Shuler led the Lady Senators with 16 points and eight rebounds, while Bolduc added 11 points and eight boards and Roan tallied 11 points in the loss.
The game was the final one in a Walters State uniform for Roan and Rogers, who went 57-5 in their two years in Morristown and made two trips to the national tournament.
“We will miss those two a lot,” Kragel said of his sophomores. “They were tremendous leaders for this team, and they worked hard and showed this freshman class what to do to be successful. Now it’s time for these freshmen to step up and do the same for next year.”
-By Matt Daniels, Tribune Sports Editor