Shelton State comes up big down the stretch to claim third place with 63-57 win over New Mexico Junior College
LUBBOCK, Texas – Don’t tell Shelton State College and New Mexico Junior College they were playing for a consolation prize Saturday.
They sure didn’t play like it.
Showing all the intensity and desire expected for a championship game, the Lady Buccaneers and Lady Thunderbirds fought tooth and nail for 40 minutes in the third place game of the NJCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship at the Rip Griffin Center.
In the end, No. 2 Shelton State simply made more plays both offensively and defensively down the stretch than the fourth-seeded Lady Thunderbirds to claim a 63-57 victory.
Sophomores Keyuana Thompson and Coco Knight each hit key free throws in the final 13 seconds and came up with steals to prevent NMJC from getting off the possible tying shot attempts in a game that had all the ebbs and flows of a title tilt.
“We’re in a timeout and (assistant coach Chris Sanford) said when you get to that point in the game, both teams going at it, it’s not about plays anymore. It’s about players making plays,” Shelton State head coach Madonna Thompson said. “We had some kids that just made some plays and were in the right place at the right time. We were just a little greedier and I think wanted it.
“I’m ready to go to the beach and I didn’t want to go to the beach on what happened last night and I sure didn’t want to go to the beach on a loss.”
Daiane Macahado led all scorers with 20 points for New Mexico Junior College, including six points in a 7-0 run that pulled the Lady Thunderbirds even at 51-all with 7:05 to play.
NJMC then led 55-54when Meredith Lovelady hit the second of her two free throws in the game and Knight followed with a layup, putting the Lady Buccaneers up 59-55 with 1:24 to play. The Lady Thunderbirds pulled to within 59-57 on a Shaniya Mitchell layup but could get no further, though they had their chances.
Thompson came up with a huge rebound off a miss on one NMJC possession in the final 25 seconds, then got a steal with 14 seconds left and was fouled, hitting two free throws. Knight then sealed it with two free throws following a rebound with 0.7 seconds left.
Ultimately, NMJC going 0 for 10 from the 3-point line – Shelton State hit 5 of 12 – and committing 22 turnovers made the difference in the game.
“Same thing as last night. We had some scoring droughts and that created some distance,” New Mexico Junior College head coach Drew Sanders said. “We gave them some second-chance points and some turnovers, and a couple of those turnovers late in the game really hurt us. Then we didn’t shoot the perimeter ball. In a game like this you’ve got to hit some threes. The kids made a run to get back in it and gave ourselves an opportunity to win, we just didn’t execute enough down the stretch to finish it.”
Mitchell added 13 for the Lady Thunderbirds.
Knight and Nicholson each had 14 points to lead Shelton State, but their defensive and rebounding prowess down the stretch was just as important.
“It feels great,” Knight said. “It’s better than going home with a loss and thinking over and over what we could have done to change the game. Third is better than fourth so we can’t be too upset. We knew this was going to be our last game together, period. Everybody is about to go their separate ways and we just had to make the best of it and enjoy it and, most of all, have fun.”
Both teams came out of the gates motivated and focused in the first half. The result was two teams that battled back and forth for the entire first half, with neither team leading by more than four points. Knight scored eight of Shelton State’s first 10 points of the game but was matched by Nycolle Smith and Mitchell.
Smith then added four more points late in the second quarter that put the Lady Thunderbirds up 24-20 before the Lad Buccaneers closed the first half with n 8-0 run, including six straight points from Gabrielle Nicholson. That put Shelton State up 28-24 at the intermission.
New Mexico struggled from the 3-point line, going 0 for 6 in the first half, though Shelton wasn’t much better at 1 for 4. New Mexico also outrebounded Shelton 21-16 in the first half.
Smith led the Lady Thunderbirds in the first half with eight points. Knight also had eight to lead Shelton State.