Johnson’s two FTs late lift Shelton State to upset of Tallahassee, 79-78
LUBBOCK, Texas – Cierra Johnson hit two free throws with 2.3 seconds to play after picking off a pass in the backcourt, and No. 10 seed Shelton State College held off No. 7 seed Tallahassee Community College, 79-78, in the second round of the NJCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship Tuesday at the Rip Griffin Center.
“That was an emotional roller coaster,” Shelton State head coach Madonna Thompson said. “We had highs, we had lows. That was a March Madness basketball game.
“I told her before she shot those two free throws, I’ve played college basketball and I’ve seen a lot of college basketball, and very few times in your career do you have a chance to be a hero. This is one of those golden moments and you never know if you’re going to get another one. You better take advantage of this opportunity.”
Trailing 78-76 with under 30 seconds to play, Johnson had a chance to tie the game but missed the front end of two free throws, hitting the second to pull the Lady Buccaneers to within one.
On the ensuing inbounds play, Jas Hill took the pass and dribbled across the court, crossing the lane and tried to throw a pass back to the middle. Johnson was waiting for it and picked it off, driving to the basket. Her first shot was short but she got her own rebound and was fouled on the putback attempt with 2.3 seconds left.
She hit both free throws to put Shelton ahead 79-78, and after a timeout by Tallahassee moved the inbounds play to the Lady Eagles’ end of the floor, LaTangellia Walker intercepted a lob inbounds pass across court and ran out the clock to preserve the win.
“Going to the free-throw line I knew that it was do or die,” said Johnson, who finished with a game-high 24 points. “I had to knock them down. I got thrown off mentally when I missed my free throws but with help from my teammates, they put me back up. Coach said the way to win championships is free throws and layups and I just knew I had to knock them down and be the hero.”
The win puts the Lady Bucs (32-2) into the quarterfinal round where they will face No. 2 seed Odessa College (29-1) at 3 p.m. on Thursday.
Savannah Reier added 13 points and Dan a Echols chipped in 11 for the Lady Bucs.
For Tallahassee, the loss overshadows a tremendous comeback that saw the Lady Eagles (23-8) down by 30 early in the second quarter. A 36-point third quarter gave Tallahassee the lead at 63-62 going into the fourth quarter.
The Lady Eagles built on that lead and led 78-73 with just over a minute to play. But a technical foul on Jas Hill on a scramble for the ball gave the Lady Bucs two free throws and possession, making it a one-possession game with a minute to play, setting up for the dramatic conclusion.
“That was very frustrating after the girls overcame adversity,” Tallahassee head coach Franqua “Q” Bedell said. “Really, truly we were telling them we were in the game the whole time and I kept telling them we’d taken their best punch and had to keep coming. I thought we withstood but they made some smarter plays than we did toward the end.”
Hill, Lawriell Wilson and Janessa Murphy combined for all seven of the Lady Eagles’ three-pointers, helping turn a 30-10 hole early in the second quarter into a one-point lead going to the fourth.
Murphy led the Lady Eagles with 19 points. Wilson added 18 and Hill 14 while Japonica James chipped in 12.
A 12-3 run early in the first quarter put Shelton State up 14-5, and that lead grew to 24-10 by the end of the first quarter and 30-10 with just over two minutes expired in the second quarter.
But the lead seemed to relax the Lady Bucs maybe a bit too much as Tallahassee finally got its offense, and in particular, its pressure defense going. The Lady Eagles, who forced 15 first-half turnovers, scored seven straight points and capped an 11-2 run with a Shaigna Wentz layup to pull Tallahassee to within 32-21 with 4:12 left in the first half.
The Lady Eagles continued to chip away at the deficit, getting it to single digits at 36-27 on a jumper by Janessa Murphy with 42 seconds left. But Shelton recovered to score three points in the final 30 seconds to lead 39-27 at the intermission, using their own defense to force 18 turnovers by the Lady Eagles.
Johnson led the Lady Bucs with 13 first-half points.
Wentz and Murphy had six points apiece in the first half for Tallahassee.