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Co-Lin to tackle Casper in debut

Internet traffic on the National Junior College AthleticAssociation’s Web site picked up considerably Wednesday, just afternoon. That’s when the NJCAA released the pairings for the openinground of the Division I Women’s National Basketball Tournament inSalina, Kan., set March 16-20.

In this area, priority interest focused on the Copiah-LincolnCommunity College Lady Wolves who are fresh from winning the NJCAARegion 23 Tournament. Seeded fifth, the Lady Wolves (27-1) willface the Casper (Wy.) College Lady Thunderbirds at noon nextWednesday in the Bicentennial Center. Casper (31-3) is seeded No.12 in the 16-team field.

Jefferson County (Mo.) is seeded No. 1 and meets No. 16 Willison,N.D., Tuesday at 4 p.m. No. 2 seed Gulf Coast (Fla.) plays No. 15South Georgia at 2 p.m. Tuesday. No. 3 seed Midland (TX) faces No.14 Shelton, Ala. Tuesday at 10 a.m. in the tournament opener.

No. 4 seed Central Arizona plays No. 13 Lincoln Trail (Ill.)Wednesday at 2 p.m. No. 6 Northern Oklahoma plays Labetta, Kan., at6:15 Tuesday. No. 7 seed North Idaho meet No. 10 Monroe (N.Y.)Tuesday at noon. No. 8 seed Trinity Valley (TX) faces No. 9 WaltersState (Tenn.) at 8:15 Tuesday.

Co-Lin was ranked No. 3 in the NJCAA’s final regular season poll.Jefferson was No. 1 and Gulf Coast (Fla.) No. 2.

Rankings aside, seedings are often partially based on previousperformances in the national tourney. Coach Gwyn Young’s LadyWolves made their last appearance in 2007 and placed sixth.

Young breathed a disappointed sigh when he saw his team’s firstgame scheduled for Wednesday instead of Tuesday. It means anotherday of waiting to get started.

The 16 coaches will meet Monday afternoon with tournament officialsand a welcoming banquet for participating teams will take placethat night. Six opening round games will be played Tuesday and twomore Wednesday before the consolation bracket kicks in.

Co-Lin is in the same bracket with Central Arizona, an annual titlecontender. Win or lose, the Lady Wolves will play Thursday. Actioncontinues through Saturday night.

Talking to some of the Lady Wolves Wednesday before practice, itwas clearly evident they were excited about going to the nationaltournament. Many of them are from small towns like Hazlehurst,Crystal Springs, Meadville and Lumberton.

Co-Lin sophomore guard Latoria Holder of Lumberton smiled brightlywhen asked about her first trip to the national tournament. “I’mready to see what it’s all about. I’m looking forward to Kansas. Itwill be a business and a vacation trip at the same time.”

Sophomore forward Shareka Hunt of Meadville said she was lookingforward to the experience. “It should be interesting and exciting.We should get to meet new people.”

Speaking of new people, Casper’s team boasts a pair of tallinternational players. Samira VanGrinsven is a 6-2 center from TheNetherlands who averages 13.5 points per game for the Thunderbirds.Australian Julianna Paunovic is a 6-foot forward who averages 13.7ppg.

International players are in abundance at the national tourney.Many of them are 6-foot-2 and taller. Remarkably, a lot of them canrun like deer and shoot the lights out.

Co-Lin’s last national adventure sent them against a towering teamfrom Southeastern Illinois in the second round. SEI featured threestandouts from Kinshasa, Congo. Two of them stood 6-3 and 6-5respectively. All three of them are seniors at Mississippi StateUniversity this year, playing for the Lady Bulldogs.

Co-Lin sophomore Rachel Vigers grinned when we shared the idea ofencountering lots of snow in Kansas. A Baton Rouge product, Vigershas enjoyed her first experience with measurable snow this winteras Mississippi experienced three onslaughts of the whitestuff.

Vigers commands plenty of respect on the backboards. She believesthe Lady Wolves will do well in Kansas.

“We are all go-getters and good players,” said Vigers. “We can goto the next level.” She dreams of playing for her hometown LSU LadyTigers next season.

Guard Nadia Collins is one of Co-Lin’s perimeter shooters. Shefound the range in the regional tournament and provided importantpoints as she subbed for playmaker Rokeyia Adams who was hobbled byan ankle injury.

“Our team has a positive attitude and we are a hard-working,unselfish group,” said Collins.

Adams had her left ankle securely wrapped before practice. Sheagreed with Collins.

“We are a hard-working group of girls who go out and get the jobdone. We like to have fun when we are playing. We have a greatcoach and he knows what it takes to win.”

Brandi Simmons, the only freshman in Co-Lin’s starting lineup, isfrom Jackson. She smiled and said it’s been a remarkable season.”We’ve only lost one game and now we’re going to the BigDance.”

Simmons said she was anxious to begin the journey. “I’m excited andready to experience the nationals.”

Write to sports editor Tom Goetz, c/o The DAILY LEADER, P.O. BOX551, Brookhaven, MS 39602 or e-mail sports@dailyleader.com