Hay’s 24 points and key free throws help Salt Lake stave off Cochise, 58-48
LUBBOCK, Texas – Tia Hay scored a game-high 24 points, including some key free throws down the stretch, as No. 5 seed Salt Lake Community College held off the upset bid of 21st-seed Cochise College, 58-48, in the Round of 16 at the NJCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship on Thursday at the Rip Griffin Center.
Hay scored 16 of her points in the second half, and Annie Brady added 13 points for the Bruins (29-4), who advance to the quarterfinals to face 13th-seed Jones County Junior College on Thursday at 5 p.m.
“I’m happy we won but I thought we were a little rusty,” head coach Becky Specketer said. “They played a real scrappy, intense defense and I think that rattled us a little bit. But I think we did some things down the stretch that we had to do and made some plays.
“I thought we showed some maturity from our sophomores. Just some things that we had to do and these kids have been in those situations before. When we had to have somebody step up and make a play, somebody stepped up and made a play.”
Hay helped the Bruins ice the game by hitting 4 of 6 from the free-throw line in the final 45 seconds, turning a tentative four-point lead into a secure 10-point advantage as the final buzzer sounded.
“We just wanted to play hard on defense and felt if we work hard on our defense and stop the ball, then we can go through our offense,” Hay said. “Just being aggressive and attacking to the rim so we could get some fouls and get to the free-throw line.”
Salt Lake had just one more field goal and two more made free throws than Cochise, but the difference was the five made 3-pointers for the Bruins compared to 0-for-10 for the Apaches.
Salt Lake led by 11, 30-19, at halftime but watched as Cochise (28-4) quickly cut the lead to five with a 6-0 run. Undaunted, the Bruins pushed it back to a double-digit advantage with an 11-4 run and led by 10, 41-31 at the intermission.
Cochise got the lead down to four twice early in the fourth quarter and was within three at 50-47 with 2:56 to play. But Salt Lake went 6 of 8 from the charity stripe and outscored Cochise 8-1 the rest of the way to secure the win.
“We knew it would be difficult to score on them,” Cochise head coach Laura Hughes said. “They’re the fourth-best defensive team in the country for a reason. We just could never get over the hump. They responded really well when they needed a basket.”
Sophia Elenga led the Apaches with 17 points and nine rebounds, but was the only one for Cochise to score in double figures.
Salt Lake put the early defensive clamps on a Cochise team that hung 96 points on Wabash Valley in the first round on Monday. The Bruins held the Apaches to just 29 percent from the field (9 for 21) in the first half, including just 3 for 13 in the first quarter in jumping out to a 16-6 lead.
The Bruins also took advantage of their height differential with 24 rebounds and limited Cochise to just two second-chance points. Cochise was also unsuccessful on five 3-point attempts.
Salt Lake shot 40.7 percent from the field, hitting on 11 of 27 shots, and was 3 of 7 from beyond the arc while also going 5 of 8 from the free-throw line. That was enough to build a 30-19 lead at the intermission.
Annie Brady led the Bruins with seven first-half points while Hay added six. Elenga paced Cochise with eight points.