Gulf Coast captures second straight national championship with 87-63 victory over Trinity Valley
LUBBOCK, Texas – When Roonie Scovel returned to Gulf Coast State College two years ago to coach women’s basketball, she realized the first thing she had to change was the culture of the program that had lapsed since her departure.
So, her first goal was to first recruit good people to set the program standards off the court, the find good players who could set the standard on the court.
Turns out, you can do both at the same time.
The Lady Commodores got off to a hot start and outmatched Trinity Valley Community College in the championship game of the NJCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship Saturday night at the Rip Griffin Center, and the result was an 87-63 victory that gives Gulf Coast its second straight national championship and fifth overall.
“We’ve been fortunate,” Gulf Coast head coach Roonie Scovel said. “A little divine intervention. All of our kids have done their job, they bought into their job, they bought into their role and know what they to do. Today, every single player did their job.”
“It’s just great. These kids deserve the best. They have worked hard, they have committed to this literally since last summer, stayed in summer school just to work out and make sure they had that mission to get back.”
The win also gives the Lady Commodores (34-2) a rare triple crown – winning conference, regional and national titles in back-to-back years. And they did it by beating Trinity Valley for the second straight year, topping last year’s 63-47 victory.
“In the Panhandle (Conference) we had three teams here that are just an hour apart,” Scovel said. “And we play each other three times in conference play. That grind is unbelievable, but these young ladies fought that grind. We’ve won the triple crown back-to-back. That is truly amazing.”
Shayla Bennett came off the bench to score a game-high 21 points and Jhileya Dunlap added 18 points for the Lady Commodores, who used a 14-0 game early in the first quarter to jump out to a huge lead and force Trinity Valley (30-6) to play from behind the whole way.
But the Lady Cardinals couldn’t find the answer defensively to shut down Gulf Coast for any length of time that would have allowed them to get back into the game. The closest Trinity Valley got in the second half was pulling to within 14 at 51-37 with 2:13 left in the third quarter.
But the Lady Commodores opened the fourth quarter with a 10-3 run to take a 71-45 lead with 7:14 to play, essentially sealing the win and their second straight championship.
Maria Castro added 14 points for Gulf Coast while Shaterrika O’Neal added 12 and Emery 11 in the win.
“We worked so hard,” said guard Taylor Emery, who earned tournament Most Valuable Player honors. “From last summer to now we’ve just been getting after it. It’s been a hard grind and the fact that we were able to come back and repeat for coach is just the most amazing feeling.”
Christalah Lyons led the Lady Cardinals with 16 points. Shakeela Fowler added 15, Naomi Davenport 11 and Jordan Alexander 10.
The Lady Commodores came out blazing, hitting 57.1 percent (8 of 14) from the field while also playing shut-down defense on the Lady Cardinals. Trinity Valley hit just 4 of 17 shots in the first quarter, and its seven turnovers led to 10 of Gulf Coast’s first 24 points.
But it was the start that made the biggest difference as Gulf Coast slugged Trinity Valley in the mouth from the beginning, scoring 16 of the game’s first 19 points, including 14 straight, over the first five minutes of the contest. Castro and Bennett each had 3-pointers in the run.
“A lot of white (jerseys) going past us. We weren’t ready for that,” Trinity Valley head coach Gerald Ewing said. “At the end of the day, as the coach I’ll take the hit on this one because I probably should have changed up some stuff a little bit in the first quarter. We played some zone and had a little plan, but they jumped out so quick. I probably should have made some adjustments, so this was not my kids’ fault. It was my fault.”
Trinity Valley stemmed the tide somewhat with a 6-1 run, but the Lady Commodores answered by finishing the first period with seven straight points, four from the free-throw line and the second trey from Bennett, to lead 24-9 at the end of the period.
From there, the Lady Cardinals played catch—up the rest of the period, but couldn’t. Trinity Valley shot just 25 percent (8 of 32) in the first half and was held to just 1 of 10 from the 3-point line.
Gulf Coast cooled off some in the second quarter but not enough for Trinity Valley to make a dent in the lead. The Lady Cardinals did cut it to a 10-point game midway through the period, but the Lady Commodores finished the half strong on an 8-3 run to lead 36-21 at the intermission.
“We’ve had a few games like that this year, so we picked a good time to do it on this trip,” Scovel said.