The Athens Review
SALINA, Kan. —
The No. 1 ranked Trinity Valley Community College Cardinals return to a game they have not lost in at the NJCAA Women’s National Championship following a 90-69 win over the No. 9 ranked Blinn Buccaneers Thursday afternoon at the Bicentennial Center.
With the win, the Lady Cardinals are now 34-1 on the year, while Blinn ends it season at 32-4.
The Lady Cards hold a 9-0 record in national semifinal contest during their 18 tournament appearances heading into tonight’s contest.
TVCC will play Gulf Coast tonight at 6 p.m. in the national semifinals.
Gulf Coast beat Shelton State, 72-60 on Thursday.
The Lady Cardinals defeated Blinn 89-72 in Blinn, 94-88 in overtime at Cardinal Gymnasium in the regular season finale and 69-58 in the Region XIV championship at UT-Tyler 19 days ago.
“It is unbelievable that we were finally able to get to Salina for the national tournament,” Jenkins said. “It took me 11 years to get here and we finally got here. I am very proud of them and we are not going to be like Trinity Valley and we will not win 30 games every year like them.”
With all four of their losses coming to TVCC, Blinn coach Jeff Jenkins said you have to respect the talent of the Lady Cardinals.
“We could not stop them,” Jenkins said. “Defensively, they are going to get the shots and they are better than us. You can’t play somebody four times in one year and not be able to beat them and say you are better than them.”
Trinity Valley jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the opening five minutes of the contest as Shannon Smith, Adut Bulgak and Krystle Henderson scored points during the run.
“The opening minutes were just like it was at regionals when we were down 55-30 and we need to be able to make shots early on to have a chance against Trinity Valley,” Jenkins said. “You have to make shots and they are going to score. If we can’t score in the first half then we are in trouble.”
First-year coach Elena Lovato said the focus coming into the fourth meeting was on the defensive end.
“I am finally getting this group to stay focused on defense and rebounding and they are pretty special on offense,” Lovato said. “I think they were all locked in on the defensive end and it helped with the offense tonight.”
TVCC jumped out to a 20-7 lead with 10:20 remaining as Smith found Victoria Wells in the pain for the easy basket and free throw.
The 20-7 lead was a reversal of fortune from Tuesday’s 20-6 deficit in the opening minutes against Weatherford in their second round game.
“We did not talk a whole lot about offense but we wanted to focus more on defense,” Lovato said. “I thought my girls bought into our scouting and that gave us the big lead at halftime.
The big lead at halftime was a, 44-29, advantage that TVCC continued to hold throughout the second half.
Smith was locked in throughout the game from the 3-point line as she went 7-for-10 in the game.
She gave TVCC a, 49-33, lead with 17 minutes left in the game on an assist by Wells.
Smith gave TVCC a 19-point lead at, 70-51, with as she blasted her way for a layup with 7:20 remaining to seal any comeback attempt by the Lady Buccaneers.
Lovato praised the play of Smith following the game.
“She was being a leader tonight and I knew that she could have a great game,” Lovato said. “I could not ask for a better back court right now with how Krystle and Shannon are playing right now. We also have people like Victoria and Savannah playing well also right now.”
The one glaring stat following the game was foul shots as TVCC committed 28 fouls to 18 for the Buccaneers.
The Buccaneers with 33-of-41, while TVCC went 20-of-28 in the contest.
Another stat Lovato was pleased with was the fact all 10 players scored in the game and due to the foul situation she was able to get solid minutes from her bench players.
“I was frustrated with how my girls kept bailing them out,” Lovato said. “If you look at it for tomorrow in terms of minutes played it was good because we got a lot of quality minutes out of our subs and it helped make things difficult for matchup purposes.”
TVCC had 31 points from Shannon Smith as she went 11-of-22 in the game and 7-of-10 shooting from 3-point land. She also had four rebounds, three assists and one steal in the ballgame.
Allen had 17 points, two rebounds, one assist and one rebound off the bench.
Wells had a near double-double in the game with 10 points and seven boards.
NOTES FROM SALINA:
• Former TVCC head men’s coach and athletic director Leon “Red” Spencer was in attendance for today’s national quarterfinal matchup against Blinn College.
•This is the 51 tournament win for the Lady Cardinals as they are 51-16 overall.
•Coach Lovato’s record at TVCC is now 43-3 overall and 75-7 as a head coach.
•Lovato was the head coach for the final 11 games of the 2009-10 season before and this is her third trip to the national tournament as a head coach. She led the Lady Cards in 2010, Grayson in 2011 and this year’s Lady Cardinals basketball team.