LUBBOCK, TX (WDAM) _ Jones College boarded the postseason basketball dragon Tuesday afternoon and held on for dear life, coming away with a breathless 88-84 victory over Three Rivers College in the opening round of the National Junior College Athletic Association Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament.
The Lady Bobcats, the ninth seed in the 32-team field, fell behind by 10 points after one quarter and were down to the tournament’s 24th seed by 17 points early in the second quarter.
But Jones got back within six points by halftime, took the lead for good with 5:42 left in the third quarter and built up a 15-point lead early in the fourth quarter before finding itself in a one-possession game in the final minute.
“I am just really proud of our team,” JC coach Missy Bilderback said. “They fought really hard. Three Rivers was really good. They hit some shots and kind of hit us in the mouth. So, for us to be able to battle back and be tough in the second, third and fourth (quarters) and stick together is what it’s all about it.
“I’m proud of our team for finding a way to win.”
The Lady Bobcats (28-2) will take on eighth-seeded New Mexico Junior College (26-5) at 4 p.m. Tuesday at Rip Griffin Center at Lubbock Christian University.
The Lady Thunderbirds, who had a first-round bye, saw a 10-game winning streak snapped in the title game of their region tournament.
Three Rivers, located in Poplar Bluff, Mo., was known for its high-flyin’ offense, and the Lady Raiders did not disappoint.
Three Rivers (27-4) grabbed a 28-18 lead on the Lady Bobcats in the first quarter and then pushed that lead to 37-20 on a Hannah Turner 3-pointer with 8:31 left in the first half.
But the Lady Bobcats slowed down the Lady Raiders, holding them to nine points over the rest of the second quarter, outscoring them by 11 points and cutting their deficit to 46-40 at halftime.
“You couldn’t ask for a better start, but it’s not how you start the race, it’s how you finish,” Three Rivers coach Jeff Walk said. “In the second quarter, they slowed us down offensively. We missed some shots that we normally make, and that’s what got them back into the ballgame.”
Jones kept a-coming in the third quarter, and a 3-point basket by Keyara Jones gave the Lady Bobcats the lead, 54-51. Jones would not trail again.
“Jones is a good basketball team,” Walk said. “They do a good job and they did what no other team has been able to do all year long and that’s take us out of what we wanted to do.”
The Lady Bobcats led 67-60 at the end of three quarter and went up 15 points, 75-60, on a three-point play by center Kyia Weathersby with 8:08 to play.
That’s when Hurricane Hailee struck, and the Lady Bobcats had to hold on hard.
Three Rivers guard Hailee Erickson, who scored 15 consecutive points in a fourth-quarter stretch, brought the Lady Raiders back.
Keyara Jones hit a 3-pointer to put the Lady Bobcats up 85-77 with less than 2 minutes to play.
Erickson sank four free throws to get Three Rivers within 85-81 with 1:21 to play before a Weathersby bucket pushed the lead back to 87-81.
An Erickson 3-pointer pulled the Lady Raiders within three points, with 56 seconds to play. A Jones turnover gave Three Rivers a chance to pull closer or even tie with a trey.
But JC point guard Destiny Haymer forced a tough shot by Erickson, but then Haymer missed two free throws, leaving the door open. Again, Three Rivers missed, and again, the ball wound up with Haymer, who made 1-of-2 free throws with 3 seconds to play.
Ballgame, as Jones snapped a 20-game Three Rivers’ winning streak.
“We knew we just needed one or two stops,” Bilderback said. “You have to give (Erickson) credit. She was really good.
“We had a couple things go wrong in the last few minutes, but again, it’s just a testament to our team, to our fight, to our never quitting.”
Keyara Jones and Weathersby each scored 24 points, but it was the 6-foot-3 Weathersby and her compatriots in the post, LaMiracle Sims and Maya Jones, that may have turned the game in the Lady Bobcats’ favor.
Weathersby grabbed a team-high nine rebounds, while Sims and Maya Jones combined to score 13 points and grab 16 rebounds. Haymer turned in a brilliant line, with 17 pints, 11 assists and
The Lady Bobcats, who shot 51 percent from the floor, outrebounded Three Rivers, 41-35 and held a 58 to 30 bulge in points in the paint.
But Jones also committed 19 turnovers and missed 8-of-17 free throws to help keep Three Rivers stay close. But the Lady Raiders also did plenty to chases the Lady Bobcats to the wire.
Erickson finished with a game-high 29 points, while Thurman posted a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Denay Watson also carded a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds. An Nyah Pettus also scored 12 points.