Jones County defense smothers Western Nebraska, 64-42
LUBBOCK, Texas – Alexis Tolefree and Nique Cherry combined for 28 points, and Jones County Junior College’s defensive pressure smothered Western Nebraska Community College for a 64-42 victory in the opening round of the NJCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship on Monday at the Rip Griffin Center.
Tolefree led all scorers with 16 points while Cherry chipped in 12 points and five rebounds for the Bobcats, which won its 24th straight game by holding Western Nebraska to just 25 percent shooting from the field (16 of 64) and forced 21 turnovers.
“I thought we just kind of had to grind that one out a little bit,” Jones County head coach Missy Bilderback said. “I don’t know that we played perfect, but we played hard and, like them, we hadn’t played in over a week. A little sluggish at times but overall I thought when we really needed buckets and needed good things to happen, we found a way to make that happen.”
The victory puts Jones County (29-1) into the Round of 16 where the Bobcats will face No. 4 seed Hutchinson Community College (33-1) at 10 a.m. on Wednesday.
Despite the struggles, Western Nebraska (28-5) stayed in the game early in the third quarter thanks to a 7-0 run that cut the Jones County lead to seven at 37-30. But the Bobcats answered right back with eight straight points to re-establish the lead at 45-30.
The Cougars had one last push to end the third quarter and cut the lead to single-digits at 45-36 heading into the fourth. But WNCC went cold, not scoring again until 4:57 remained in the game. By that time, Jones County had built a comfortable 59-36 lead and never looked back.
“I thought we came out, we competed,” Western Nebraska head coach Chad Gibney said. It was just one of those night when we didn’t get shots to fall and it’s hard to win when the ball isn’t going in the basket. Our girls played hard and we held our own on the glass, we handled their pressure well in the game. But when you shoot 25 percent from the field, less than 25 percent from three and less than 50 percent from the free throw line, it’s hard to win.”
Bree Paulson and Sladjana Rakovic led Western Nebraska with nine points each.
Jones County’s athleticism was on display from the start and proved too difficult for Western Nebraska to corral effectively for any length of time. That allowed the Bobcats to turn a slim one-point lead midway through the first quarter into a comfortable 23-10 advantage by the end of the period.
“That was a huge key,” Bilderback said. “They’re very skilled and a very smart basketball team and we felt like our advantage would be our athleticism and tempo. We felt like controlling the tempo would be a huge key for us coming in. We had a few runs and that really was the difference in the game.”
K.K. Tassin and Kyle Felton gave Jones County that spark off the bench by combining for 10 of their 12 first-half points in that first quarter. Felton had a pair of layups and Tassin had three free throws during the 12-0 quarter-ending run that gave the Bobcats a 13-point advantage.
Jones County continued the barrage in the second quarter, pushing the lead to 30-13 before Western Nebraska made a late run to end the half and cut the gap to 12 at 35-23.
Even though the Cougars dominated on the boards to the tune of 24-15, Jones County outscored Western Nebraska 14-8 in the paint in the first half and had 10 points off of 12 Cougars turnovers. JCJC also held WNCC to just 27.3 percent from the floor in the first half.