No. 1 Wabash Valley holds off upset-minded Florida SouthWestern, 81-78.
LUBBOCK, Texas – Jordyn Dawson drained a pair of free throws with 4.3 seconds to play, and No. 1 Wabash Valley College held off a furious rally from No. 17 Florida SouthWestern for an 8-178 victory in the second round of the NJCAA Division I Women’s Basketball National Championship on Tuesday at the Rip Griffin Center.
Dawson’s two free throws, part of her 10-point, eight-rebound effort, stopped the momentum Florida SouthWestern (30-4) had built as part of a 12-2 run that almost entirely erased a 77-66 deficit from the 5:31 mark of the fourth quarter. It also helped the Lady Warriors (32-0) quell the Buccaneers’ momentum that almost carried them to an upset of the top team in the country.
“You can’t get out of your character; you’ve got to keep your cool,” Dawson said. “I just told myself that I’ve got to make these free throws and take my time.”
Trailing by 11, Nairimar Vargas-Reyes hit two free throws, and Tina Stephens scored four straight points to pull the Buccaneers to within five. After a Keya Patton layup for Wabash, Simone Lett hit a putback and Stephens hit four more points to pull Florida SouthWestern to within 79-78 with 1:24 to play.
“I felt like that momentum got us going and gave us that push that we needed there in the end that we didn’t have in the first half,” Stephens said. “I felt like that gave us that drive and that gear to keep on going because we knew it wasn’t over.”
The Buccaneers got the ball back and fed Stephens down low, but she was whistled for an offensive foul with 37 seconds to play. The ensuring inbounds pass, however, went out of bounds off the hands of Keya Patton, giving the Buccaneers another shot.
Lett missed a jumper in the lane and Marie Hunter snared the rebound for Wabash Valley, drawing a foul. She missed both free throws, though, giving Florida SouthWestern yet another shot. Tonysha Curry then missed a jumper, with the ball going to Wabash Valley on a held ball on the rebound. Dawson was fouled on the inbounds play, and calmly stepped to the line where she hit the two game-clinching free throws.
Dazha Congleton led the Lady Warriors with 16 points while Hunter finished with 12 points and five assists. Kyra Hogan added 11 points.
“It was great to see our guys get stops when we needed to down there at the end,” Wabash Valley head coach Jack Trosper said. “We had a few key stops there, and Jordyn was able to knock down some big free throws to ice the game. Overall just happy with how we are. This time of the year it’s survive and advance and we’re just happy to win and move on.”
Florida SouthWestern did almost everything it needed to do to try to pull off the upset. The Buccaneers hit 50 percent (10 of 20) from the 3-point line, five each from Vargas-Reyes and Za’Nautica Downs, who finished with a game-high 20 points. The Buccaneers also outrebounded Wabash Valley 42-35.
“Just a great second half to fight back and we were in a winning position with a couple of shots right there at the end,” Florida SouthWestern head coach Kristie Ward said. “The ball just wouldn’t fall, but it was an amazing effort.”
But the Lady Warriors had the advantage inside, outscoring FSW 44-38 on points in the paint and shooting 47.9 percent (34 of 71) from the field, with only 15 3-point attempts for the game.
It was an 8-1 run to end the first quarter and an 8-2 surge to start the second that allowed Wabash Valley to take control at 35-22 just two minutes into the second quarter. That forced Florida SouthWestern to play catch-up the rest of the way, and it wasn’t until late that the Buccaneers had success doing so – coming up just short.
Vargas-Reyes finished with 19 points and Stephens added 18 and 11 rebounds in the losing effort for Florida SouthWestern, while Shondell Vickers chipped in 12 points.