Lady Jets suffer heartbreaking loss to Northwest Florida State in NJCAA quarterfinals
Published 10:39 am Sunday, March 26, 2023
LUBBOCK, TX – For at least the first two quarters of play, it looked as if the #1 ranked South Georgia Tech Lady Jets (SGTC) were going to advance to the Final Four of the NJCAA Division 1 women’s national basketball tournament with a win over Northwest Florida State (NWFS), but as everyone knows, four quarters make a full game, not two. Over the first two quarters, SGTC looked the part as the # 1 ranked team in the nation and the overall #1 seed in the tournament, as they led by as much as 17 points in the third quarter. However, in that third quarter, NWFS (27-4) changed the momentum and, ultimately, the outcome of the game by outscoring the Lady Jets 22-11. The Lady Raiders carried that momentum into the fourth quarter, as they dominated the final stanza, outscoring SGTC 25-10 and ending the Lady Jets’ 33-2 season by handing them a 72-61 defeat at the Rip Griffin Center on the campus of Lubbock Christian University on Saturday, March 25.
After the game, SGTC head coach James Frey described the game as a tale of two halves and stated that his club did not continue their intensity and precise execution of the game plan in the second half as they had done in the first. According to Frey, this was the main reason for the outcome of the game.
“It was an incredible year for us, but this was different,” Frey said. “We got up by 15, 17 points in the third quarter. We stopped playing aggressive. We executed our game plan perfectly in the first half. Defensively, we took everything we needed to take away. In the second half, we played with no energy. Our body language was bad. You can’t get to the Elite Eight and not be consistent. We were really, really poor in the second half. I told them in the locker room, ‘I want to sit here and say this doesn’t define you. It doesn’t do whatever, but you know what, when you get to this level, it does define you. You cannot not show up’. You know, 33-2 is a phenomenal year that I will never forget and I love my team, but you can’t take halves off in elite games and expect to be competitive and we laid an egg in the second half. I’m the coach. It’s my fault. We will get to work with the freshman and try to get them ready for next year. I love my sophomores. We’ll move them on, but this one is going to sting for a long time,” Frey continued.
While the Lady Jets did not play well in the second half, some of this was due to the resurgence of NWFS, particularly from beyond the arc. In the first half, the Lady Raiders only made two three-pointers, but got hot in the second half with eight. Destiny McPhaul, who scored 17 points in the contest for the Lady Raiders, drilled a total of five three-pointers in the game, but four of them came in the second half.
Sakima Walker led NWFS in scoring with 22 points, including one three-pointer, and Zayla Tinner was also in double figures with 15 points on 4 of 12 shooting, including two three-pointers.
Another factor in the NWFS come-from-behind victory and the Lady Jets’ downfall in the second half was second chance points by NWFS. In the first half, the Lady Raiders came up with 12 second chance points on offensive rebounds to SGTC’s five. In the second half, things weren’t much better for the Lady Jets, as NWFS out performed SGTC in that category 7-2 for a game total of 19-7.
SGTC sophomore small forward Alexia Dizeko led the Lady Jets in scoring with 19 points on 6 of 14 shooting, including three shots from beyond the arc. Sophomore power forward Susana Yepes poured in 18 points, with all of them coming on six three-pointers, and sophomore center Fanta Gassama posted a double double with 12 points and 15 rebounds in the losing cause.
The Lady Jets jumped out to a 16-8 lead by the end of the first quarter and continued that dominance in the second quarter on their way to a 40-25 lead at halftime. Dizekp led the Lady Jets in first half scoring with 13 points and Yepes scored 12 of her game total of 18 points in the first half.
Zayla Tinner drilled a three-pointer for NWFS to start the third quarter and it was the beginning of a 6-0 by the Lady Raiders, but the Lady Jets responded with an 8-0 run of their own to take a 48-31 lead.
However, momentum swung towards the Lady Raiders late in the third quarter, as they caught fire and went on an 16-3 run that was capped off by a three-pointer by Destiny McPhaul just before the quarter ended. In a matter of minutes, the momentum had totally shifted in favor of NWFS, as they only trailed 51-47 at the end of the third quarter.
That momentum continued in the early minutes of the fourth quarter, as the Lady Raiders went on a 6-1 run to take a 53-51 lead before Dizeko tied the game on a layup. With 6:45 to go in the game, Dizeko was fouled in the act of shooting and regained the 55-53 lead for the Lady Jets with two made foul shots, but the Lady Raiders would outscore SGTC 5-2 over the next minute or so to take a 58-57 lead before a media timeout was called with 4:59 to play.
During this period of the game, the Lady Jets struggled to get defensive rebounds and it proved to be costly, as the Lady Raiders were able to score points on second chance offensive rebounds. This enabled NWFS to make another run and they took a 68-61 lead on a three-pointer by Tinner with less than two minutes to play.
Another factor in the run made by the Lady Raiders was their ability to clamp down on defense, as the Lady Jets were whistled for two crucial offensive foul calls late in the game. At this point, there was no way back for the Lady Jets and they went on to lose to NWFS by the score of 72-61.
NWFS will move on to face Southern Idaho in the Final Four on Sunday, March 26, at 5 p.m. EDT.
Some of the information in this article was obtained from the website www.njcaa.org.