No. 13 Jones County pulls off upset of the tournament, downing No. 4 Hutchinson 91-82
LUBBOCK, Texas – Alexis Tolefree scored a tournament-high 35 points, one off her season high, and No. 13 seed Jones County Junior College pulled off the biggest upset of the NJCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament so far, ousting No. 4 seed Hutchinson Community College, 91-82, on Wednesday.
Tulane signee Tatyana Lofton added a season-high 26 points for the Bobcats (30-1), who advance to face No. 5 Salt Lake City Community College (29-4) in the quarterfinals at 5 p.m. on Thursday.
Down nine early in the second quarter, the Bobcats went on a 19-4 run to get back into the game, then surged ahead for good early in the fourth quarter, bouncing one of the tournament favorites who had to sit and watch the first two days of action.
“It’s just a credit to our kids. They’re very resilient,” said Jones County head coach Missy Bilderback, who has led her team to the quarterfinals in the first national tournament appearance in school history. “There’s no quit in them and they’re very confident in themselves. I think we started off a little timid early just trying to get a feel for them and not sure what to expect. Just proud of the kids, they’ve never had any quit in them all year and they expect to win. I don’t think being out here we think any different.”
Myyah West added 10 points for Jones County, which shot 16 for 27 in the middle periods and used its athleticism throughout the game to drive the ball inside. Jones County went to the free-throw line 41 times and made 33, compared to just 11 of 18 for the Blue Dragons (30-2).
Taylor Stahly led Hutchinson with a season-high 26 points and Bride Kennedy-Hopoate added 12. Inja Butina ad Brenna McClure chipped in 11 points apiece for the Blue Dragons (33-2), which had their 31-game winning streak snapped.
“We really had a difficult time of guarding Jones County,” Hutchinson coach John Ontjes said. “They were much more athletic than us and we struggled to keep the basketball in front of us and defend the basketball. We had 22 turnovers which led to a lot of easy baskets for them.”
Tied at 74, the Bobcats went ahead for good on a pair of free throws by Kyle Felton and a layup by Lofton with 4:49 to play. Jones County then iced the game on four free throws, turning an 80-77 lead into an 84-77 advantage.
Stahly’s last 3-pointer cut the lead to 84-80 with 2:01 to play, but Jones capped the game by scoring seven of the game’s final nine points.
“Just stay calm, knock down shots and do what we’ve been doing all year,” Tolefree said. “We’ve been down before and we always find a way to fight back and come back, and that’s what we’ve done all year.”
The Blue Dragons showed no detriments to having to sit for the first two days of the tournament, coming out of the gates firing. Kirea Rogers and Kyla Williams each drained 3-pointers as Hutchinson jumped out to a 10-2 lead and maintained that advantage through most of the first quarter.
Hutchinson shot a sizzling 69.2 percent (9 of 13) from the field in the first quarter and hit 59.3 percent (16 of 27) for the half. Taylor Stahly led the Blue Dragons with 17 first-half points, including a 5-for-5 mark from beyond the arc.
A layup by Brenna McClure pushed the lead to double-digits at 27-16 early in the second quarter before five straight points from Tatyana Lofton pulled Jones County to within six at 27-21. But it was only a sign of things to come.
Trailing 30-21 with just over seven minutes left in the first half, the Bobcats found their shooting touch, especially Alexis Tolefree, who had 10 of her 18 first-half points in the second period.
Tolefree converted the free throw on a 3-pointer from the right win then added a conventional three-point play 26 seconds later, and suddenly the Bobcats and Blue Dragons were tied at 30.
But the Jones County rally didn’t stop there. Down 34-31, Tolefree hit her third 3-pointer of the half to kickstart a 9-0 run that included consecutive layups from Juliet Esadah, pushing the Bobcats to a 40-34 lead with 2:56 to play in the half.
The Blue Dragons recovered to tie the game at 40 with 1:18 remaining, and the teams traded points from there to knot the score at 44 at halftime.
After shooting just 30.8 percent (4 of 13) in the first half, the Bobcats shot 64.3 percent (9 of 14) in the second half. Tatyana Lofton added 11 points for Jones County.