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4th Quarter Struggles End Lady T-Birds' Season

4th Quarter Struggles End Lady T-Birds' Season photo 3/23/2018 10:43:30 a.m. - Hobbs, NM. [Story by Jason Farmer, Hobbs News Sun]

LUBBOCK – For two quarters of play, the New Mexico Junior College women’s basketball team was more than top-seeded Shelton State could handle.

But its a four-quarter game and in the fourth quarter, when the Lady T-Birds needed their offense most, it had disappeared.

As a result, the 8th-seeded Lady T-Birds were outscored 30-14 in the game’s final 10 minutes and fell to undefeated and top-seeded Shelton State, 90-79, in the second round of the NJCAA Women’s National Basketball Tournament in Lubbock. While Shelton State continues its quest for a national crown, NMJC’s season ends with a 31-4 record.

“We have got to play four quarters like we did the first two,” NMJC coach Drew Sanders said. “We lost a little bit of our defensive discipline in the second half and they got some open looks and they got hot. … I am the proudest coach in America. I wouldn’t trade my team for anybody.”

Even with the loss, Sanders was pleased with how his team played.

“The girls bought into everything we did,” Sanders said. “I am very, very proud of our effort. I would say that 90 percent of the people (who) saw us play earlier in the week, probably said this (game) was going to be a blowout and we had a legitimate chance to win.”

The Lady T-Birds finished the game with six 3-pointers. Shelton State (35-0) hit that many in the fourth quarter, finishing with 14 treys.

“That is who they are,” Sanders said. “We lost our defensive discipline and quit talking and weren’t moving and maintaining our zone lanes and we got some people lost as far as coverages.”

While the fourth quarter did not go the Lady T-Birds’ way, NMJC led most of the way through the first three.

The Lady T-Birds ran out to a 27-20 lead in the first quarter. NMJC trailed early by four points, but Alexes Bryant stepped up to lead the Lady T-Birds’ offense, scoring 16 of her game-high 32 points. She had only 12 points in the second half, and just two in the fourth quarter.

“They used a zone because they couldn’t stop Alexes,” Sanders said. “It was one of those things where we needed a little bit more pressure with the zone.”

Each team had big runs in the second quarter. With 6:35 left in the second, Shelton State called a timeout after NMJC took its largest lead at 33-22. Following the timeout, the Lady Bucs went on a 13-2 run tying the game at 35.

Lady T-Bird Jurnee President the had a run of her own, scoring seven-straight points. That was part of an 11-0 run building their lead to 49-38, with six seconds left in the half. Shelton State hit a buzzer-beating three though, cutting NMJC’s lead at the break to 49-41.

“We knew they were going to come out and pressure us. That is their forte,” Sanders said. “They are not used to anybody running back at them and we ran it down their throat.” Lady T-Birds twice led by 10 points in the third quarter, but with 2:17 left in the third, Shelton State battled back to tie the game. That set up the game’s final quarter, which the Lady Bucs controlled.

Danielle Craft and Tatiana Wright had double figure scoring efforts for NMJC, finishing with 14 and 13 points, respectively. Wright added nine assists and three steals. Keonna Watson and President each posted seven points for the Lady T-Birds. Watson led the Lady T-Birds with seven rebounds while Maqueia, Bryant, and Andrade each had six.

Shelton State had four players in double figures, including Margaret Robinson who finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds. Cierra Johnson led the Lady Bucs with 29 points. Savannah Reier added 21 and Dana Echols had 12, respectively. Johnson, Reier, and Echols each netted four treys.

NMJC finished the season with a 31-4 record.

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