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March 20, 2014

NJCAA NATIONAL TOURNAMENT: Proving a point

TVCC teams heading into Elite 8 play later today in Kansas

SALINA, KAN. — When it comes to an exciting first three days of the NJCAA national basketball tournaments, the Trinity Valley Community College Cardinals and Lady Cardinals have proven they belong this season.

Both teams have made it to the Elite 8 of their respective tournaments in Hutchinson and Salina, Kan.

For the No. 1-seed Lady Cardinals, the pressure is on them to perform well as they are the two-time defending national champions.

Coach Elena Lovato’s squad is looking to become the first NJCAA Division I program to win the title in three consecutive years.

The Lady Cardinals opened the tournament on Tuesday afternoon with a 77-48 win over the Western Nebraska Cougars and head into today’s contest against Northwest Florida State at 1 p.m.

They are coming in with a 33-1 record and are looking for a trip to the Final Four on Friday at 6 p.m. against Blinn or Central Arizona.

Last year, the Lady Cardinals played Central Arizona in the national title game, which Trinity Valley won by a score of 83-71.

In the win over Western Nebraska, five players scored in double figures led by sophomore Adut Bulgak with 15 points, while LeeLee Grant added 14 points off the bench.

Jazmine Spears added 12 points for the Lady Cardinals, while Shlonte’ Allen and Deborah Meeks chipped in 11 points.

Lovato said after the game, the Lady Cardinals still have some areas to work on and need to get fixed before they return to the court this afternoon.

“We need to work offensively on attacking the defense a little bit better and that is where the turnovers are coming from,” Lovato said. “We have so many threats on the floor so I would like to take advantage of different mismatches during the game.”

The only team to beat Trinity Valley in the regular season, the No. 2-seed Chipola Indians, opened the tournament on Wednesday against the ASA College Avengers.

Those two teams could have a chance to collide in either the third place game or the title game on Saturday if both teams make it to the final day of the tournament.

Chipola beat TVCC, 72-60, on Nov. 23 in the Midland College Women’s National Invitational Tournament  Championship game.

Cardinals

The No. 12-seed Trinity Valley Cardinals have made its presence felt in the first two rounds of the national tournament in Hutchinson.

Actually, the four at-large seeds in the tournament have made an impact on the brackets.

In the first three days of the tournament, TVCC, No. 13-seed Harcum College, No. 10-seed Columbia State and No. 9-seed South Plains went undefeated at 7-0.

The Harcum College Bears (31-3) and TVCC (29-6) will battle each other for a trip to the Final Four this afternoon at 2 p.m.

The Cardinals, who are now 10-4 in national tournament games, now hold the third most wins in a season at 29.

That mark trails only 33 in 1982 and 30 in 1995.

This season has marked the Cardinals first trip to the national tournament since 1999.

In the Cardinals 88-85 win over the No. 5-seed Northeastern  Junior College Plainsmen in the early morning hours on Wednesday, TVCC had to come back from a 16-point deficit early in the first half to pull out the victory.

“We didn't play pretty and we didn't always play smart tonight, but man -- we played with guts,” coach Kris Baumann said. “We really did a good job sticking together tonight.”

In the win over Northeastern, TVCC shot 28-of-55 from the field for 50-percent and 23-of-30 from the free throw line.

Trinity Valley had 26 turnovers against the Plainsmen, compared to just five turnovers in their, 68-65, opening round win over the Pratt Community College Beavers.

“We just made enough plays at the end,” Baumann said. “But we beat a real good basketball team.”

Dedrick Basile led the way for TVCC with 18 points, five assists and three steals, while Octavius Ellis had 14 points, five blocks and six rebounds.

Malcolm Riley also had a solid game off of the bench with 14 points, three rebounds, one assist and one steal.

If the Cardinals can win tonight and reach the Final Four, they will face the winner of the No. 1-seed Indian Hills versus No. 8-seed South Plains contest on Friday at 6 p.m.

The tournament concludes on Saturday with the third place game set for 5 p.m., with the title game set for 7 p.m.

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