Castro, Gulf Coast race past Seward County, into semifinals, 83-72
LUBBOCK, Texas – Oklahoma State signee Maria Castro drained seven 3-pointers as part of her team-high 23 points, and Gulf Coast State advanced to the semifinals of the NJCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship with a 83-72 victory over Seward County Community College on Thursday at the Rip Griffin Center.
Taylor Emery added 16 points for the Lady Commodores, who will face either Jones County Junior College or Trinity Valley Community College in the semifinals at 5 p.m. on Friday.
“Offensively it was pretty high-powered from both teams early,” Gulf Coast head coach Roonie Scovel said. “High energy for two teams to play like that in the national tournament. Defensively, I’ll speak for us, not so much. Then in the third and fourth quarters was kind of a grind and both teams defense got better and offense got worse, but it was a great game.”
LaSonja Edwards came off the bench with 12 key points for Gulf Coast, which had to deal with the massive inside presence of 6-foot-8 Seward center Joanna Grymek, who had a game-high 26 points and grabbed 16 rebounds.
Scovel said the Lady Commodores didn’t come out with the intention of giving up defensively inside to prevent the Saints from dominating outside, it just looked that way.
Intentional or not, it worked. Seward, known best for its 3-point shooting drained 16 from beyond the arc in its opening-round win over South Plains College and shot 41 percent from 3-point range.
On Thursday, however, the Lady Commodores limited the Saints to just 23 shots and nine makes from 3-point range and held Mollie Mounsey, who holds the school record for made 3-point shots in a season, to just three for 11 total points.
“I knew it would be a challenge because of how she was hitting the other day when we watched her play,” said Gulf Coast guard Shaterrika O’Neal, who was charged with guarding Mounsey. “I knew I had to try to stop her as much as I could. I had help from my teammates.”
While the Lady Commodores found success in their defensive efforts on the perimeter, Grymek flourished, scoring 18 first-half points including 6-of-7 from the free-throw line. Seward scored 24 points in the paint in the first half compared to just 12 for Gulf Coast and dominated the boards, 20-12.
Gulf Coast, though, found a way to defend both the inside and outside in the second half as Seward had just eight points in the paint after halftime and just two made 3-pointers after the intermission.
Part of Seward’s struggles were due to the absence of starting point guard Neidy Ocuane, who tore her anterior cruciate ligament late in Tuesday’s win over South Plains College. That forced Seward to adjust offensively, and head coach Toby Wynn said it eliminated some offensive sets they’ve run all season.
“Our players battled,” Wynn said. “To try to put a game plan together with what we had there, and one practice and one shootaround, I thought our players executed what we wanted to do very well. Our 3-point shot’s been our key all season and we’ve relied on it. They just got our and pressured us and limited our ability to make 3-point shots.”
While Mounsey and the Saints struggled on the perimeter, Castro came out blazing, putting on a shooting clinic of her own by draining five of her six first-half treys in the first quarter as Gulf Coast built leads of 29-21 at the end of the first quarter and 54-47 at halftime.
Castro’s 20 first-half points paced the Lady Commodores, who also got nine points each from Taylor Emery and O’Neal and eight Edwards, who also had to deal with Grymek’s height inside.
“We would never intentionally give up the post,” Scovel said. “We didn’t defend the bigs very well, the back screens and then let them open at the top. We had a hard time stopping the big girl, but we did a nice job of making some deflections throughout the game and scored a bunch of points. We knew we were going to be undersized. It was a great effort to keep (Mounsey) from getting comfortable from outside.”