INA — Never mind those brackets you see.The Wabash Valley College Lady Warriors are playing today (Thursday) for a berth in the NJCAA national tournament anyway.
WVC won its Region 24 tournament opener, 74-70, over John A. Logan on Tuesday night. Even though today’s (Thursday) 2 p.m. game against Kaskaskia is only a semifinal, this year the top two teams from the region advance to the national tourney.
So, getting to the finals is just as good as getting to Salina, Kan. where the national tourney begins on March 18.
Wabash Valley (18-10) has already beaten Kaskaskia twice this season. But, that’s the problem, according to Lady Warrior coach Zach Loll.
“It’s going to be tough to beat them a third time,” said Loll. “(Kaskaskia) will have a chip on their shoulder.”
Kaskaskia (23-7) lost to WVC 77-69 on Jan. 7 in Centralia, then lost in Mt. Carmel, 71-69, on Feb. 9, the only two losses the Blue Devils have suffered in a 14-2 Great River Athletic Conference championship season.
After losing an 11-point lead in the second half, the Lady Warriors held off Logan with key free throws down the stretch.
Brittnay Dozier, in her first game back after suffering an injury once feared to be season-ending, hit two free throws with 1:03 left to put WVC ahead, 71-68.
Then, after a pair of free throws by Briya Wilborn brought the Vols back to within one point, D’Nell Greenwell countered with two free throws at :23 to build the lead to 73-70.
Wilborn and BreAnn Denny missed shots at the close, and the Warriors had the win.
“We started watching the scoreboard, playing not to lose,” said Loll of his team’s faltering play. “We went away from going inside.” That’s where the Lady Warriors made their greatest impact in the game. Misha Jones, a 6-foot-4 sophomore, put together one of the best games of her career with 15 points, 11 coming in the first half.
Andriana Moore matched that with 15 points of her own inside.
Rashawnda Shamell led WVC with four 3-point field goals and her entire total of 19 points coming in the second half.
With a total of 55 fouls in the game, it was tough for either team to establish control. “It’s hard to play defense when every bump is a foul,” Loll said.
“But, we were able to escape.”