Trinity Valley gets job done at free-throw line, ousts Northwest Florida 61-49
LUBBOCK, Texas – Jasmne Smith had a game-high 16 points, and Trinity Valley used a second-quarter surge to gain the advantage and outlast Northwest Florida State for a 61-49 victory in the quarterfinals of the NJCAA Division I Women’s Basketball National Championships on Thursday at the Rip Griffin Center.
The win puts the Lady Cardinals (29-4) into the semifinals where they will face Gulf Coast State at 6 p.m. on Friday. Trinity Valley has played in the championship game in each of the first three years since the tournament moved to Lubbock beginning in 2016.
Curtessia Dean added 13 points for the Lady Cardinals (29-4), who were held 17 points under their season scoring average but got the job done defensively and at the free throw line. Trinity Valley’s aggressiveness toward the basket sent it to the free-throw line 26 times hitting on 20 of them. By contrast, Northwest Florida State (26-6) was just 4-13 from the stripe.
“I feel like just us being aggressive and getting to the basket, we know we can make shots,” Smith said. “But we knew the defense they were going to play, watching them (Wednesday) night and seeing how they played, we knew that if we got to the cup that it would be easier for us to get to the line because they were going to foul us.”
It was a stretch of perfect free-throw shooting that allowed the Lady Cardinals to take control of the game.
Leading 18-17, Trinity went to the line four straight times, hitting a perfect 8 for 8 to take a 26-20 lead. Northwest Florida was never able to recover from that spurt, scoring 24 points under its season average for the game.
“Defensively we finally started locking in to what our game plan was,” Trinity Valley head coach Gerald Ewing said. “Once we did that, I thin we just followed our scheme.”
Shania Meertens led the Raiders with 14 points and Georgia Gayle added 11. The Raiders actually had more field goals (19 to 17), matched Trinity in 3-pointers made (7) and outrebounded the Lady Cardinals (33-26), but the difference in free throw production was too much to overcome.
“I thought we had a good defensive gameplan,” Northwest Florida head coach Bart Walker said. “They’ve been running up and down the court all week, an we alleviated that fast break. It was just a tough night shooting the basketball. You have to score to win, and we just didn’t have a good night shooting the basketball.
“They play downhill a lot and I think they got a lot of free throws off of screens and things like that as well. They just played better than we did.”
Arleighshya McElroy chipped in 12 points in the winning effort for Trinity Valley.
The two teams slugged it out for the first part of the first half until the Lady Cardinals used their aggressiveness on offense to build a lead, but doing so from the free-throw line.
After Trinity Valley made its run in the second quarter, Northwest Florida had three trips to the free throw line in the final 2:14 but hit just 1 of 6. The Raiders scored just eight points total in the second quarter and were 1 of 5 from 3-point range after hitting on 3 of 4 shots in the first period.
“A lot of us were in foul trouble early, too, which didn’t help us early on, and we struggled with that for most of the game,” Raiders forward Jaiden McCoy said. “We kept fouling and they made most of their free throws, and we missed most of ours. I think we got good looks but they just weren’t falling, especially in the paint.”