Georgia Highlands races past Gillette in NJCAA national tournament opener
LUBBOCK, Texas – Georgia Highlands College got 15 points from Kayla Carter and used a 16-3 third quarter to sprint past Gillette (Wyo.) College 72-53 in the opening game of the NJCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship.
Deana Blankinship added 14 points for the 16th-seeded Lady Cougars (26-9), who advance to the second round to face No. 1 seed Gulf Coast State at 2 p.m. CDT Tuesday. Pam Diokpara scored 11 points and grabbed eight rebounds off the bench for Georgia Highlands.
“Our kids just did a tremendous job of being in the moment and doing what we do,” Georgia Highlands head coach Brandan Harrell said. “The third quarter was huge for us. It’s the national tournament and we knew they were going to make a run. They wouldn’t be here if they couldn’t play, couldn’t shoot. We just needed to handle it and respond to it.”
Mary Goulding led the Lady Pronghorns (23-11) with 16 points and eight rebounds while Taylor Deaton chipped in 10 points. Gillette was making its first appearance in the national tournament in just its seventh season of existence.
“We’re thrilled to be here to begin with,” Gillette head coach Will Rider said. “To be able to make the national tournament in just the seventh year of the program is pretty remarkable. I’ve got good friends who have been coaching 35-40 years who have never made it here and I feel fortunate to be here. Just two sophomores and 10 freshman, it’s quite an accomplishment and a good run for us.”
Leading 47-30 at halftime, the Lady Cougars put the defensive clamps down on the Lady Pronghorns, who shot just 3 of 19 from the field in the first half and finished the game shooting just 29 percent (18 of 62).
The Lady Cougars were able to establish their style from the bat and it paid off midway through the first quarter. A 15-0 run, keyed by a pair of Broughton 3-pointers, put Georgia Highlands up 25-12 with 3:11 to play in the first quarter.
Kayla Carter got the job done early for Georgia Highlands with six of her 11 first-half points coming in the game’s first 21/2 minutes. But once the Gillette defense clamped down on her, that opened up Broughton, who had 12 points in the first half, on the outside and Deana Blankinship underneath.
Blankinship scored 10 of her 12 first-half points in the first quarter, ending the period with layups on consecutive trips down the floor to put the Lady Cougars up 29-15 and the end of the first.
Gillette, however, came out strong to start the second half and appeared to have solved its defensive troubles. Down 40-23, Mary Goulding single-handedly keyed a 7-0 run, hitting a 3-pointer from the top of the key, that cut the Georgia Highlands lead to 40-30 with less than 2 minutes left in the first half.
But Georgia Highlands staved off that rally and scored the final seven points of the half, including the third 3-pointer from Broughton with three seconds left to push the lead back to 47-30 at the intermission.