Eastern Arizona outlasts Northern Oklahoma-Enid 58-55
LUBBOCK, Texas – It’s less than a 10-hour drive from the NJCAA Women’s Division I Basketball National Championships to Eastern Arizona College. Gila Monsters head coach Ryan McAdams was not looking forward to that drive had they lost again in the first round.
Instead, the Gila Monsters get to stay an extra day or two. Malou Thiebaut de Kergret hit two free throws with three seconds left that proved to be the difference as Eastern Arizona outlasted Northern Oklahoma-Enid 58-55 in the first round of the NJCAA Women’s Division I Basketball Championships at the Rip Griffin Center.
“It doesn’t matter what it looks like, it matters what’s at the end,” McAdams said. “I’m proud of this group for their mental strength through moments of failure and moments of success. We had plenty of reason and plenty of excuses to go away and fold, and we didn’t. I’m proud of our group’s mental stability in those moments and their ability to stay the course and finish the game.”
Akia Frett led Eastern Arizona (25-8) with 14 points in the win. The Gila Monsters advance to the second round to face No. 2 seed Shelton (Ala.) State at 6 p.m. CDT on Tuesday.
Regan McCarty and Tania Pierre-Emile each added 11 points for the Gila Monsters, who used a strong end of the third quarter and start to the fourth to take control of the game. That gave Eastern Arizona its first victory at the national tournament.
“The last two years we were here, the first one was new. Last year … we came up short against a good Wallace State team. We felt like we’ve taken some licks out here but we really appreciate that and the ability of this group to play against teams of that caliber.”
Rylie Torrey led Northern Oklahoma-Enid (27-7) with 15 points and Gabbie Parsons added 14 in the losing effort.
“I’m really proud of the girls,” Jets coach Scott Morris said. “We really limped across the finish line in the regular season and our point guard tore her ACL in the championship game. And of all the teams we matched up with we had to match up with (Frett) out there and that hurt us. I thought the girls did a good job of containing here but we had our hands full and it was an uphill battle.”
Neither team led by more than seven points in the first half, and even then the lead was short-lived.
Eastern Arizona looked to take control midway through the second half when it went on a 6-0 run to take a 27-20 lead with 3:05 remaining. Just as quickly, however, Northern Oklahoma-Enid reeled the Gila Monsters in by scoring eight straight to take a 28-27 lead with 45 seconds left and trading points from there to lead 30-29 at the intermission.
In a show of just how close the first half was, Northern Oklahoma-Enid hit just two more shots (12 of 30) than Eastern Arizona (10 of 30), but the Gila Monsters had two more 3-pointers and one more free throw to keep the game close. Enid outrebounded Eastern Arizona 23-20 in the first half but negated that somewhat with eight turnovers to just six for Eastern.
Regan McCarty led all scorers in the first half with nine points for the Gila Monsters while Rylie Torrey and Gabbie Parsons had seven each to lead the Jets. But Parsons also found herself in foul trouble with three.
The third quarter was much of the same story though Eastern Arizona used a 7-3 spurt to end the third quarter with a one-point lead then opened the fourth by scoring seven of the first nine points to lead 49-43 with 61/2 minutes left in the game.