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East Central bests Co-Lin for Region 23 tile

CLINTON — The Co-Lin Lady Wolves battled right until the endbut couldn’t make the plays and fell to the tough East Central LadyWarriors 54-45 Thursday night in the championship game of theRegion 23 JUCO Basketball Tournament at A.E. Wood Coliseum on theMississippi College campus.

In the men’s championship game, Northwest rallied to beatSouthern-Shreveport 89-82.

The East Central women (29-2) advance to the NJCAA Tournament atSalina, Kan., for the second time in four years.

The Northwest men (27-3), ranked No. 4 in the country, travel toHutchinson, Kan., for the men’s NJCAA.

“East Central has the best team in the region,” said Co-Linwomen’s head basketball coach Gwyn Young after the loss. “I hopethey play to their potential in the Nationals.”

Turnovers hurt the Lady Wolves. Co-Lin had 14 in the first halfand cut it back to seven in the second half to finish with 21. EastCentral had 18 turnovers.

“We just turned the ball over too much,” stated Young.

From the free throw line, Co-Lin shot well, going 10-for-13.East Central managed a poor 9-for-22.

The Lady Wolves lost starting forwards Lauren Williams andVictoria Richardson with five fouls apiece with 2:03 and 1:42 leftat the end of the game.

Richardson finished the game with four points, eight rebounds,seven steals and three assists. Williams had two points. After thegame, East Central head coach Brad Hodge visited the Co-Lin benchto compliment Williams and Richardson in their final game of theirJUCO careers.

Three times in the final minute of play, Co-Lin trimmed thedeficit to four points, 46-42, 48-44 and 49-45 following a fieldgoal from Co-Lin sophomore forward Renee Fields with 1:20 left.

With time in their favor, East Central ran the clock and forcedCo-Lin to foul.

In the final 20 seconds of the game, East Central’s KristenChaney netted a field goal to pushed their lead to five points,50-45. Teammate Kotreece Bender sacked two free throws in the finalseven seconds to extend their lead to seven points, 52-45.

At the end of the first half, East Central went on a 9-3 run topost a 30-21 lead over Co-Lin. The Lady Wolves jumped on the LadyWarriors early in the first half but East Central got back in thegame near the 13-minute mark and began to take control.

“I’m proud of our effort,” said Young. “We missed a couple ofeasy shots off great plays.”

Fields powered the Lady Wolves with 14 points and five rebounds.Freshman forward Travalyn Smith fired in 12 points and pulled downseven rebounds. Freshman guard Gloria Lewis netted 10 points andmade three assists.

Leading the Lady Warriors with 14 points was freshman guardKristen Chaney. Kotreece Bender and Lenore Gray followed with sevenpoints apiece.

Selected to the Region 23 team from Co-Lin were Richardson andWilliams. Representing East Central were Chaney and KimyatteViverette.