WSCC women fall to Blinn, see season end at 32-1
SALINA, Kan. — Walters State’s perfect season came to an end Tuesday night as Blinn (Texas) upset the cold-shooting Lady Senators, 57-52, in the NJCAA National Tournament.
Neither team found the baskets in the Bicentennial Center very friendly but the Lady Buccaneers racked up their 28th win against 6 losses in knocking off 4th-seeded Walters State. Blinn will face Central Arizona in Thursday’s quarterfinals.
Coach Dave Kragel’s club had not lost since the national tournament last season, reeling off 32 straight wins. But the Lady Senators went 10:13 of the second half without a bucket and finished with their lowest point total of the season.
Walters State finished the night 21 of 71 from the floor for an ice cold 29.6 percent. That total included a 0-18 performance from behind the 3-point line. Add in 24 turnovers and 10 of 18 free throws and it’s hard to see how it was just a 5-point loss.
But it wouldn’t be hard to figure out when you saw that the Lady Bucs shot an even worse percentage (16 of 57 for 28.1 percent) and turned the ball over 21 times themselves. However, Blinn was 4 of 15 from behind the arc and poured in 21 of 32 free throws to pull off the win.
Kragel summed it up well. “You can’t win ball games shooting the ball as poorly as we did. I really can’t fault our effort because we played as hard as we could possibly play. But they played as hard as we did. It was a defensive war. You know, both teams are averaging 80 points and for it to be this low scoring is unreal.
“We just couldn’t get the ball to go in the basket,” he added. “We got good shots all night long and we had several that seemed down in the basket that came out. We missed point-blank layups and wide-open looks…shots you have to make. I just don’t have an answer for this one. Maybe it’s that we don’t play in an open-air arena like this very much…I just don’t know.”
Kragel said, “They’re a good ball club and played hard. But you have to make plays at this level. You know if the ball had just dropped in a couple of times it might have been different.”
Fatima Adams, who holds school records for both scoring and rebounds, led the Lady Bucs with 20 points including a perfect 9 of 9 free throws. She also raked off 14 rebounds. Katrina Hayden chipped in 14 points including a couple of big baskets down the stretch.
“Adams is a heck of a player,” said Kragel. “We did everything we could to try to stop her and she still got 20.”
Jasmine McAllister and Donnesha Shuler-Brown had 11 points each for Walters. McAllister also pulled down 19 rebounds and blocked 3 shots.
Blinn coach Jeff Jenkins said, “It was a great win for our program. We have so much respect for Walters State and Coach Kragel. It’s the first time we’ve ever got to play them. His team is so disciplined and they play so hard. It’s just a great win for us…we don’t have the history that their program has.”
Jenkins said Adams is a special player. “She’ll probably be the best player I’ll ever coach. I’ve coached 15 years and she’s the best in that time and I think she will be when I’ve coached 37. She can put the ball in the hole.
“Tonight, we got a couple of big baskets form Katrina (Hayden). She’s a good ball-handler and uses her body well to get to the basket. She hit some big baskets down the stretch.”
The coach said he was surprised his team could win when shooting 28 percent. “We’re an offensive team. We haven’t played much defense all year. So to beat a team like Walters when we didn’t shoot any better than that is surprising.
“They have a great program. I can’t even imagine winning 800 games at the same place. That’s amazing.”
Even as badly as things were for the Lady Senators, they still had a chance until the very end. Arjae Saunders hit a basket to give Walters its final lead with at 44-43 with 12:46 left in the game. The next bucket came on an inbounds play by McAllister with 2:33 left and believe it or not got WS within 49-48.
Hayden had put the Lady Bucs in front with a driving bucket and Adams scored off a fast break and then the winners went 5½ without a point. But the Lady Senators scored a lone free throw by Shuler-Brown over the same stretch.
Shunta Nevitt scored from in close for Blinn and Karly Frye hit a charity toss for Walters before McAllister’s basket. Hayden connected on 2 free throws before Jephany Brown hit a basket and missed a free throw that would have tied it with 2:13 to play.
Adams and Brown traded a pair of free throws and it was 53-52 when Hayden drove for another layup with 1:16 on the clock. The Lady Senators had several chances to get closer but couldn’t find the bucket. Tierra Tucker’s hit 2 free throws with 24.8 on the clock to ice the victory.
Kragel talked about the season. “It was a great season and this is a great bunch of kids. This group of sophomores is the very best. They’ve been so much fun to be around. I hate it ends like this for them.”
-By Derwin Helton, Tribune Sports Writer