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Lady T-Birds Reach Region 5 Title Game

Lady T-Birds Reach Region 5 Title Game photo 3/8/2014 8:31:06 a.m. - Hobbs, NM. (Story and photo courtesy of Clayton Jones/News-Sun)

     LUBBOCK — Needing a bucket, the one player with New Mexico roots stepped up when the No. 19 New Mexico Junior College women’s basketball team needed it the most.

   Cibola graduate Kassandra Harris drove into the paint, spun around a defender and laid the ball up to give the Lady Thunderbirds a lead it wouldn’t relinquish as NMJC is heading to the Region 5 title game after a 74-67 victory over Collin County on Friday at Rip Griffin Center.

   NMJC will play McLennan 4:30 p.m. (CST) today for the Region 5 championship.  

   Harris finished with a double-double – a game-high 28 points and 10 rebounds as she often carried NMJC (24-5) when the Lady T-Birds struggled offensively.

   “Kassandra had a couple of really good one-on-one moves to take the ball to the basket   when we really needed it,” NMJC coach Drew Sanders said.   The Lady T-Birds led 39-30 in the first few minutes of the second half before Collin went on a 20-6 run capped by a Brianna Williams 3-pointer with 9:34 left in the contest to make it 50-45 Cougars.

   That’s when Harris got NMJC out of the funk as she scored eight points during a 13-2 run for the Lady T-Birds – capping the run with a floater in the lane with 5:27 left to give NMJC a 58-52 advantage.

   Collin (25-7) tied the game quickly as Williams drained back-to-back 3-pointers to make it 58-58 with 4:25 left.

   The Cougars took the lead at 63-62 after Jasmine Johnson drained a 3-pointer with     2:44 left before Harris made her spin move and scored to regain the lead for NMJC for good.

   After the Harris bucket, Monique Mulder made a pair of crucial plays down the stretch for the Lady T-Birds.

   Mulder picked the pocket of a Collin guard on the Cougars’ next possession and took it in for a layup to make it 66-63 with 1:39 left.

   On Collin’s next possession, Mulder stole a cross-court pass, dribbled down court and hit a cutting Kelsey Criner for a layup to make it 68-63 with 1:09 left.

   Mulder finished with 16 points, six assists, five rebounds and three steals.

   “Mo made two big steals for us that led to two key fastbreak layups,” Sanders said. “... Mo played very well for us tonight.”

   The Lady T-Birds went 6-for-8 from the free-throw   line down the stretch to seal the win.

   While she didn’t score, NMJC’s Tanya Simpson (despite foul trouble) came up with a game-high 11 rebounds to help the Lady T-Birds outrebound the Cougars 47-36.

   Along with Harris’ 28 points and Mulder’s 16, T’Keya Mason had eight points while Blair Richmond had seven.

   Shomari Harris led Collin with 21 points while Williams finished with 20 and Traci Parks had 14.

   NMJC faces a McLennan team today that beat Weatherford 113-108 Friday and Odessa College 104-100 on Thursday.

   “They always say good defense beats good offense, but McLennan has been great on offense,” Sanders said. “If they score 100 points tomorrow, we’re going to be in trouble. We need to keep the game in the 70s at least.”  

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