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Lady Wolves face the Congo Connection

SALINA, Kan. – Call it the Congo Connection.

Besides having a deep and talented team, Coach Greg Franklin’sSoutheastern Illinois squad claims three players from the Congonation in Africa. They have helped the Lady Falcons (32-1) to No. 1ranking in the poll and No. 1 seeding in the NJCAA NationalBasketball Tournament.

For sure, the Co-Lin Lady Wolves and Coach Gwyn Young arereceiving a lesson in world geography this week. Most of teamsgathered here have a variety of international players on theirrosters. Co-Lin (29-3) challenges the top seeds tonight at 6 p.m.in the quarterfinals.

According to Coach Young, his team must produce a mighty effortagainst the Falcons. “We need to have one of our better games. Wecan’t let them kill us on the backboards. We need to work the ballaround the floor and make them work to guard us.”

We had the opportunity to watch Franklin’s Falcons rip BlackhawkEast (Ill.) Tuesday night. Certainly, they were impressive. Theyare led by Lesha Jones, a 6-foot-2 1/2 post player from Detroit,Mich. A southpaw, Jones uses her speed, quickness and height toaverage 18.1 points and 10.1 rebounds per game.

How about those players from Kinshasha, Congo?

Armelie Lumanu is a 5-9 freshman guard averaging12 points, 7.9rebounds, 3.8 assists and 6 steals per game. Fellow African ChanellMokango, a 6-4 1/2 post player, brings an average of 14.3 pointsand 11 rebounds to the game, plus an awesome wingspan. RimaKolanda, a 6-3 freshman, averages 8.1 points and 8.2 rebounds pergame.

By contrast, Co-Lin is restricted to its recruiting district andcan have three out-of-state players on its roster, according toconference rules. Obviously, it isn’t a level playing field when aMississippi team plays in the national tournament.

In Tuesday’s opening round victory over Jefferson, Mo., Co-Linfaced players from Latvia, Poland and Toronto, Canada.

“Their big players intimidate you inside,” said Coach Young,describing the Falcons. Besides being tall, they can run likedeer.

In other words, Co-Lin needs a great game just to stay incontention. Win or lose, both teams will play Friday, either in thesemifinals or the consolation bracket. Central Arizona playsNortheast Oklahoma in the other quarterfinals game tonight.

Already in Friday’s semifinals, are Odessa, Texas and SewardCounty, Kan. Odessa beat Chipola, Fla. 76-60 and Seward edged SaltLake, Utah 82-78.

Odessa is led by Jackson Callaway product Juanita Ward. The6-foot Bolton native is being recruited by Southern Miss coach JoyLee McNellis who was in attendance Wednesday night. McNellis islooking for big, fast, sharpshooting players who finish strong.

Riggs serves as tournament host

Co-Lin has enjoyed the tournament atmosphere in this city of50,000. Each tournament team has a local resident who serves as ateam host. Archie Riggs, is Co-Lin’s official host. He has beenserving as a host for nearly 20 years, dating back to when the BigEight Conference Tournament was held at the BicentennialCenter.

Riggs and his wife, Alice, have three daughters. They are avidKansas State fans. A Vietnam vet, his day job is working as apostal consultant for Pitney Bowes.

During the tournament’s impressive opening ceremony Tuesdaynight, Riggs escorted the Co-Lin team through the stands down tothe playing floor, illuminated by floodlights. Coach Young receivedhis Region 23 Coach of the Year award.

Young is well known in the junior college ranks after 30 yearsat the helm. He’s a sure-fire future Hall of Fame inductee. Thelocal newspaper, The SALINA JOURNAL, referred to him as alegend.

Co-Lin playmaker Nikki Williams raised her recruiting interestlevel after pouring in 32 points against Jefferson. She sacked 8treys, including four in a row during a second-half surge.

Three weeks ago, Williams scored 29 points in the finals of theRegion 23 Tournament. Her teammates hold her in high regard, too.She sees the floor extremely well at point guard and always seemsto be in the right place at the right time.

Write to sports editor Tom Goetz, c/o The DAILY LEADER, P.O.BOX 551, Brookhaven, MS 39602 or e-mailsports@dailyleader.com