Lady Falcons fly over Lady Wolves
SALINA, Kan. — Intensity heated up and the talent level roseswiftly in the quarterfinals of the NJCAA National BasketballTournament. Chanel Mokango, a 6-foot-4 center for SoutheasternIllinois, played on a higher plateau, leading the Lady Vikings to a53-44 Thursday night victory over the Co-Lin Lady Wolves. Mokangosacked 17 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked 4 shots beforefouling out with 1:51 left in the game.
SEI (33-1), ranked No. 1 in the NJCAA poll and No. 1 in thetournament, advances to tonight’s semifinals, meeting CentralArizona in the Bicentennial Center. Co-Lin (29-4) meets NortheastOklahoma A&M at 4 p.m. in a consolation bracket game.
Central Arizona’s Vaqueros landed a berth in Friday’ssemifinals, beating Northeast Oklahoma A&M 73-53. In the othersemifinals game tonight, Seward County, Kan. plays Odessa,Texas.
Mokango, one of three SEI players from Kinshasha, Congo, was aformidable force in the paint. Besides blocking shots, she alteredthe trajectory of many Co-Lin field goal attempts.
As a team, Co-Lin shot a cold 26 percent from the field. It wasnearly as bad at the free throw line where Co-Lin managed just 9 of23 or 39 percent.
“Free throws were a killer,” said Co-Lin coach Gwyn Young. “Welost by nine and missed 14 of them (free throws). We did a prettydecent job rebounding against them.”
Young said SEI’s towering front line of Mokango, 6-2 Lesha Jonesand 6-3 Rima Kolanda were too much for Co-Lin. “We were changingour shots. Their big girls are supposed to do that.”
The Falcons also excelled on defense. They smothered playmakerNikki Williams, Co-Lin’s leading scorer. Williams had scored atournament-high 32 points in Tuesday’s win over Jefferson, Mo.Shadowed mainly by SEI guard Christia Rozier, Williams was held to7 points.
Co-Lin sophomore center Erica Trahan did her best against SEI’sgiants. She accounted for 14 points and 9 rebounds, despite beingweakened by a head cold.
“We played our hearts out,” said Trahan. “Southeastern is veryathletic and they have a lot of height.”
The Falcons forged a 16-point, 39-23 lead with 11:38 left in thegame. Co-Lin attempted a comeback but could come no closer than 10points. Dominique Whitfield scored off a putback and then on aninbounds play, reducing her team’s deficit to 44-34, with 5:07 leftto play.
SEI got back-to-back jumpers from Jones to secure the win.Jones, a sophomore southpaw from Detroit, Mich., finished with 15points and 12 rebounds.
“Southeastern is a real good team,” said Co-Lin forward WhitneyScott. “We had to come with our A game but we had a B game instead.We missed a lot of easy shots and free throws.”
The Falcons, with their only loss coming on the road at Chipola,Fla., were averaging 74 points per game. They shot 37 percentagainst Co-Lin and finished with their lowest offensive output ofthe season. They hold opponents to an average of 49 ppg.
SEI coach Greg Franklin said his team’s defense was decisive.”We wanted to play strong defense. We missed quite a fewlayups.”
Franklin praised the Wolves. “Copiah is extremely quick andathletic. They could be the quickest we’ve played this year.”
In the first half, Co-Lin shot a cold 24 percent from the field.Williams, the team’s leading scorer, was held to 5 points.
Despite their superior height advantage, the Falcons onlyoutrebounded Co-Lin 24-23 in the first 20 minutes of action. TheWolves snared 18 defensive boards.
Coach Franklin stalked the sidelines, screaming orders at histeam.
Williams picked up 2 quick fouls before the game was 2 minutesold.
The Falcons claimed their largest first-half lead at 15 points,26-11, on a trey by Rozier.