Harford starts strong, holds off San Jacinto-North in opening round
LUBBOCK, Texas – Daisa Harris scored a team-high 25 points, and Nazje Norton added 17 on the strength of five three-pointers, and 17th seed Harford Community College held off 16th-seeded San Jacinto College-North, 80-72, in the opening game of the NJCAA Division I Women’s Basketball National Championship on Monday at the Rip Griffin Center.
Danielle Durjan added 12 points and Dahnye Redd chipped in 10 points and seven rebounds for the Fighting Owls (24-8), who advance to the Round of 16 to face top seed and defending national champion Gulf Coast State (30-2) at 2 p.m. on Tuesday. Harford hit 10 of their 12 three-pointers in the first half in building a six-point lead at the break.
“It thought we really came out firing,” Harford head coach Mike Seney said. “We made a lot of shots and that really set the tone, and the girls felt it early and had a lot of confidence. We just hit them first and that’s what we wanted to do. San Jacinto is a really tough team.
“The stats don’t show it but we like to shoot the three-ball. We’ve had a rough year shooting it but if you look at the stats we average around 28 or 29 attempts a game. Usually only eight or nine go in. We shot a lot of threes today and they went in.”
Erika Sydney led all scorers with 26 points for the Gators (24-9), who grabbed their first lead at 60-58 with under a minute remaining in the third quarter. Sydney scored 14 of her points in that quarter to turn a 45-39 halftime deficit into a 62-62 lead going into the final period.
But the Gators could not maintain the momentum as Harford ended the game on a 7-0 run that included two point-blank misses and a turnover in the final 2:30 for San Jacinto.
“We knew they were going to put up some points,” San Jacinto head coach Michael Madrid said. “They lead the country in scoring at 99 points per game so we knew they could score, but for the to do it from the three-point line the way they did was a little unusual. They hit some deep ones and I felt like, where we were, we had our hands down, we didn’t have a hand up on contest. We fixed that a little bit down the stretch but our rotations weren’t very good, our transitions on the defensive end weren’t very good and we didn’t make them earn points the way we wanted.”
Ariona Gill added 17 points for the Gators and Jasmine James chipped in 13.
Harford grabbed a 45-39 lead at the intermission thanks to terrific three-point shooting in the game’s first 14 minutes. The Fighting Owls drained 10 from beyond the arc in the first quarter plus the first four minutes of the second quarter, five of those coming from Norton, who had 15 points in the first half.
But for as hot as the Fighting Owls were from the three-point line, they could not put the Gators away, not even after a 14-3 lead in the first quarter put Harford up 24-10.
San Jacinto, meanwhile, was no slouch from three-point range. Gill had three from long range in the first half to keep the Gators within striking distance.
James sparked San Jacinto’s comeback with five straight points to end the first half, and two free throws by Monique Calliste pulled the Gators to within seven at 24-17 less than a minute into the second quarter. Harford, however, recovered and led 40-27 on a Durjan layup with 4:56 left in the first half.
San Jacinto countered with a 10-0 run led by three-pointers from Gill and Sydney to pull to within 40-37 with just over 90 seconds left in the second quarter. Harford ended the half on a 5-2 run to push its lead to 45-39 at the intermission.