’Jacks close with 7-0 run, advance at nationals
Win over St. Louis earns consolation date with Prairie State
EAST PEORIA, Ill. Shakaunna Futrell’s steal and go-ahead layup could have been the play that broke the Skipjacks’ back.
Instead, they were the last points to be scored this season by St. Louis Community College’s women’s basketball team.
Chesapeake College responded to Futrell’s hoop with a game-ending, 7-0 run Thursday afternoon that produced a 60-54 win and gave the Skipjacks their first victory in the NJCAA Division II tournament. Shantrel Oliver turned a steal into a go-ahead layup and the Skipjacks (26-4) hit their final five free throws to earn a Friday date with Prairie State (29-6) in the tournament’s consolation bracket.
"It was a really tough game," said Oliver, who had a game-high 20 points and three steals. "At the end we had to clamp down. We definitely did not want to go home today."
"They really buckled down defensively at the end of the game," Chesapeake head coach Damon Nichols said of his team.
Chesapeake’s Rose Smith contributed 15 points on 4-for-6 shooting from the field and a 7-for-9 effort at the line. Smith and Ashleigh Jones (eight points) each hit two free throws in the final 30 seconds to lock up the victory.
"Shantrel and Rose really stepped it up," said Nichols, whose squad had a 33-27 halftime lead. "Rose was one of the players I thought going into the postseason could be an ’X factor’ for us. I’m very proud of the way she’s been playing."
Nichols said his players are focused on continuing to win since they are now in "one-and-done" mode.
"I put it on the board before the game, ’You either go hard or go home’ and a lot of them didn’t want to go home," said Nichols.
"We set another goal where we want to finish seventh in the nation," added Nichols, noting that feat requires beating Prairie State and the winner of Friday’s other consolation semifinal between No. 10 Lakeland and No. 14 Southeast. "There are one-hundred-thirty-something Division II teams in the country, and if we could finish seventh that would be quite an accomplishment."
St. Louis (20-10) trailed by as many as eight points, but took the lead when Futrell anticipated a pass from Deja Acree (six points) on the wing to Jones in the middle. Futrell raced in for the go-ahead layup, but that lead proved to be short-lived.
Denver Clyde (five points, team-high seven rebounds) was fouled on a drive to the basket and made the second of two free throws with 1:20 remaining to create a 54-54 tie. Oliver then came up with her steal, going three-quarters the length of the court for a layup that gave the Skipjacks a 56-54 lead with 56.7 seconds remaining.
St. Louis missed shots on its final three possessions. Jones and then Smith each pulled down defensive rebounds after Archer misses and then each sank a pair of free throws after being intentionally fouled to lock up the win.
"We definitely didn’t panic," Oliver said of the Skipjacks’ play down the stretch. "We knew we could come back and win the game.
"Getting that win today definitely meant a lot to us," added Oliver.
St. Louis showed amazing offensive balance, with Futrell, Datona Ball, Shonnisha Davis, and Cierra Gaines each scoring 11 points and Lauren Maclin(game-high 12 rebounds) adding 10.
Emon Heath (four points, three rebounds) and Jen Carr (two points, six rebounds) rounded out Chesapeake’s scoring.
Carr, whose scoring has been down in the national tournament, had a game-high four assists.
"She’s been struggling on the offensive end, but she’s doing the little things to help us," said Nichols, noting several key Carr rebounds down the stretch.
While Nichols hopes his team can continue its run through the consolation bracket, he said the Skipjacks have already accomplished a lot at the tournament.
"I take my hat off to my girls," said Nichols. "They’ve been working hard all year and they deserved that win. We were happy to even be here, but now we’re even happier. We’ve won one game. Now we’re looking to win two more."
Nichols said Friday’s game is likely to be an up-tempo contest.
"They (Prairie State) like to run the floor," said Nichols. "They have a couple of guards who match up pretty well with us. We just have to keep up our pressure defense and rebounding and we should be O.K."
Notes: Each team shot around 30 percent from the field, and the squads were a combined 3-for-28 from beyond the 3-point line. . . . The Archers hurt their cause by going 16-for-28 from the free-throw line, including 8-for-17 in the second half.
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