Wabash Valley Women’s Basketball wins opening round game at NJCAA Nationals

Published: Mar. 23, 2023 at 11:43 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, TX. (WFIE) - Wabash Valley College came into the 2023 NJCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship as much of an offensive juggernaut as you could get, averaging more than 103 points per game.

In fact, the Lady Warriors had scored 100 or more points in 19 of their 31 games going into their tournament opener and had scored fewer than 90 just three times. So to see them sitting there going into the fourth quarter against Cochise College Thursday night with just 42 points was somewhat stunning.

Somehow, some way, on its worst offensive night, Wabash Valley found a way to pull out a hard-fought 60-57 victory over the No. 23 seed Apaches at the Rip Griffin Center to advance to the championship quarterfinals.

Shaulana Wagner hit a putback off a Brooklyn Gray miss with 25 seconds left to play, then converted two free throws following a steal with 10.1 to play to ice the game for the Lady Warriors, who will take on Eastern Florida State in the quarterfinals at 3 p.m. on Saturday.

“Good, tough win,” Wabash Valley head coach Luke Scheidecker said. “It’s always different coming to Lubbock physicality-wise. We don’t see that consistently so it took us a while to adjust and we got pounded on the boards in the first half. Second half, we responded tremendously on the glass and I thought we made some tough plays when we needed to. Proud of them how they responded after halftime.

“We kind of knew it would probably be less than 100 today, but we didn’t finish like we normally do, either. But at the same time that’s because there’s more size than we’re used to.”

Wabash Valley (31-1) will have to adjust some more against the physical, tall Eastern Florida team it will see in the quarterfinals, but surviving Thursday’s game is a good place to start.

Wagner was the catalyst for the Lady Warriors, scoring a game-high 21 points and taking advantage of that physicality to convert 11 of 18 free-throw attempts, including 7 of 10 in the final quarter. Her steady play helped keep the rest of the team focused despite not scoring at the pace to which they are accustomed.

“Not frustrated,” Wagner said. “Coming out we knew we weren’t going to score 100 points but we had to keep playing at our own pace and get it fast-paced, how we play, and just get it and go. We just weren’t making (shots) at first but as time went on, we started making them and everything just fell into hand.”

Gray and Tamesha Dozier added 11 points apiece for the Lady Senators, who survived despite being outrebounded 45-28 but also forced 32 Cochise turnovers that led to 22 Wabash Valley points.

Deyana Bogan led Cochise (28-6) with 14 points. Alayna Contreras added 13 points and Deja Jones 10 in the loss.

Cochise had its chances to pull off the upset late. Bogan tied the game at 56 with 45 seconds left on a layup from a miss by Clara Gonzalez. Wagner then hit the putback to put Wabash back up two, and the Lady Warriors came away with the steal as Cochise turned it over under its own basket, leading to the game-clinching free throws by Wagner.

Both teams played at a frantic pace the entire first half, and that led to plenty of buckets but also some sloppy play as well.

Wabash and Cochise combined for 29 turnovers, 17 by the Apaches alone, to go along with 14 combined steals. Still, even with the sloppiness, both teams shot the ball fairly well, Wabash Valley hitting 37 percent (10 of 27) from the field and Cochise hitting on 31.3 percent (10 of 32).

Neither team led by more than four points the entire first quarter, and even Wabash’s six-point lead at 24-18 with just over two minutes left in the first half didn’t last long as Cochise answered with four points to pull to within a bucket with a minute remaining. Wabash took a 26-22 lead at the intermission when Chanteese Craig hit two free throws with 0.8 to play in the half.

Bogan led all scorers in the first half with 10 points for Cochise while Madison Roshelle and Wagner had seven each for the Lady Warriors.