Solid defensive effort propels Blinn College past Itawamba, 59-39
LUBBOCK, Texas – Playing stifling defense was nothing new for Blinn Junior College on Monday.
After allowing just 55 points in their regional tournament semifinal against Tyler Junior College, then turning around and limiting San Jacinto CC to just 44 points, it should have been no surprise when the Buccaneers held Itawamba Community College to 39 points on 23 percent shooting from the field.
That effort in a strong second half helped Blinn race past the Lady Indians 59-39 in the opening round of the NJCAA Women’s Division I Basketball Championship at the Rip Griffin Center.
“We’re a pretty good defensive team,” head coach Jeff Jenkins said. “We try to make everything a tough shot. We fouled too much tonight and gave them too many free throws, and that’s us not being as smart as we need to be. The effort is always there, though.”
That effort carries the Lady Buccaneers (26-8) into the second round to face No. 5 seed College of Southern Idaho at 3 p.m. CDT on Wednesday.
The defensive push, along with 17 points and 11 rebounds from Ekiya Gray and 13 points from Jeliah Preston, could make for a tough second-round matchup.
Not only did the defense cause a poor shooting night from Itawamba (23-7), but it also forced 18 Lady Indians turnovers, confounding head coach Nanci Gray.
“Just a disappointing game for us,” Gray said. “I don’t know if it was the two-day bus trip out here but it was the least offensive output we’ve had (this season), so there’s really no explanation for that. Blinn did a good job playing defense but we’ve played some really strong man-to-man defenses this year. We just never got any kind of chemistry, any kind off offensive threat going.”
Itawamba finished the game with no player scoring in double figures, led by the eight points and five rebounds from Alontra Tucker while Marlee Hatcher and Asia Partow added six points each.
Penina Faumui added nine points and 10 rebounds for Blinn.
Blinn’s defense did a good job holding Itawamba at bay, limiting the Lady Indians to just 26.7 percent (8 of 30) from the field. The Lady Buccaneers, however, weren’t much better, hitting on just 36.7 percent (11 of 30).
The difference in the first half was Blinn’s run of hitting shots lasted longer than Itawamba’s.
Dow 15-14 early in the second quarter, Blinn went on a 16-2 run highlighted by six points from Preston and a pair of 3-pointers from Ebony Parker that put the Lady Buccaneers up 30-17 with 4:22 left in the first half.
Just when it appeared Blinn would run away, however, Itawamba answered by closing the first half with a 7-0 run to pull to within 30-24 at the intermission
Preston led Blinn in the first half with eight points while Parker and Gray added seven each.
Hatcher paced Itawamba with six first-half points and Tucker had five.
Blinn regained momentum in the game coming out of halftime with a 6-0 run to push its lead back to double digits at 36-24. From there the Lady Buccaneers never led by fewer than 10 points and put the game away with a 10-1 run midway through the fourth quarter.