Game 22

Friday - March 18, 2016

  • #2 Shelton State - 56
  • #6 Trinity Valley - 61

Strong first half puts Trinity Valley back in NJCAA title game with 61-56 win over Shelton State

LUBBOCK, Texas – By the way it played in the first half, when it seemed it could do nothing wrong, Trinity Valley Community College seemed poised and primed for a return to the NJCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship title game.

Shelton State Community College didn’t come into the national tournament ranked No. 2 in the nation for nothing, and showed why with a second-half charge. But as close as they got – and the Lady Buccaneers were within a possession of tying the game late in the fourth quarter – they couldn’t climb all the way back.

Christalah Lyons had a team-high 22 points, and the Lady Cardinals survived for a 61-56 victory over Shelton State in the semifinals of the national tournament. With the win, Trinity Valley (31-3) will face No. 1 Gulf Coast State in the title game at 7 p.m. on Saturday seeking its fourth national championship in five years.

“Glad to be in the national championship game,” second-year head coach Gerald Ewing said. “It wasn’t pretty but I’ll take it any day. We have eight freshman and sometimes they play like freshmen, and it is what it is. But I’m happy for them. This team has been through a lot. It’s a good feeling to be one of the last two teams, a good feeling to be playing for the national championship.”

Shelton State sees its season come to an end despite a game-high 23 points from Coco Knight. But the Lady Bucs’ poor shooting both from the field and the free throw line were hard for head coach Madonna Thompson to swallow after the game. Shelton State had 20 more field goal attempts, 11 more free throw attempts and outrebounded Trinity Valley 57-42.

“How do you lose that?” Thompson said. “Those are dream stats to get 76 shots off on a Trinity Valley team that is long, lean and athletic defensively. We just didn’t come to play. We looked like a junior college team and they looked like a next-level team, especially in that first quarter. We just dug a hole we could never get out of.”

Naomi Davenport added 13 points for the Lady Cardinals who, after shooting over 54 percent in the first half shot just 21.7 percent (5 of 23) and scored 19 points in the second half. Alisha Washington chipped in 10 points before leaving midway through the fourth quarter with a bruised left knee.

A late surge in the second quarter put the Lady Buccaneers within 42-29 at the intermission, then they opened the third quarter with a 9-2 run to close to within six at 44-38 with 4:35 left in the third.

Shelton State was within four at 46-43 before Trinity Valley closed the third quarter with four straight points to go back up by eight. When Knight hit a layup off a steal with 2:40 to play, the Lady Buccaneers found themselves within one at 56-55.

But four straight points from Lyons pushed the lead back out to two possessions, and Shelton State could never get closer than four the rest of the way, allowing Trinity Valley to escape with a win after struggling so mightily in the second half.

“Usually we go on our runs in the third quarter, so I don’t know why we struggled,” Davenport said. “We can’t struggle like that (Saturday). We’ve got to lock in the third quarter more.”

Trinity Valley came out of the gates on fire, hitting seven of their first eight shots en route to a quick 17-6 lead through the first half of the first quarter. That put Shelton State too far down to catch up completely, though the Lady Buccaneers tried.

But the Lady Cardinals never seemed to cool off, hitting 54.5 percent (18 of 33) from the field in the first half which included going 6 of 11 from the 3-point line. Shelton State heated up some but still shot just 31.4 percent (11 of 35) in the first two periods.

Trinity Valley’s versatility also bothered the Lady Buccaneers. Lyons led the Lady Cardinals with 11 first half points, but Naomi Davenport hit a trio of 3-pointers for nine points, Maya Singleton added eight points and six rebounds and Alisha Washington chipped in seven points off the bench.

The Lady Cardinals dominated down low, outscoring Shelton State 20-10 in the paint even though the Lady Buccaneers won the rebounding battle, 22-20.

Shelton State trailed 39-20 late in the first half before closing the second quarter on a 9-2 run to pull to within striking distance going into halftime.

Knight led Shelton State with 13 first-half points.