Skipjacks place seventh at national tournament
Dominant defensive effort produces third straight tourney win
EAST PEORIA, Ill. Defense has been the cornerstone of the most successful women’s basketball season in Chesapeake College history. The Skipjacks played to their strength Saturday afternoon, using suffocating defense to rout Southeast (Neb.) Community College, 65-50, to claim seventh place in the NJCAA Division II national tournament.
Chesapeake held Southeast to 28 percent shooting from the field including just 18 first-half points by mixing the team’s full-court pressure with a match-up zone meant to neutralize Southeast’s Kindrea Poole. The Skipjacks (28-4) forced 24 turnovers, partly due to the pressure defense, and held Poole to just 10 points with the match-up zone.
"They had a real good post player in No. 32 (Poole)," said Chesapeake head coach Damon Nichols. "We started out with our pressure defense and dropped back into our match-up zone so we’d have a lot of help inside if she caught the ball."
"We just wanted to play hard-nosed defense and box out," said sophomore forward Ashleigh Jones, who had 15 points and a game-high 12 rebounds in her final game as a Skipjack. "We had really good help defense. Whenever she got the ball, we just concentrated on getting around her and keeping our hands up."
While defense was the focal point particularly in a first half that ended with Chesapeake holding a 27-18 advantage the Skipjacks were not without their offensive highlights.
Shantrel Oliver went 6-for-11 from the field, including 2-for-3 from the 3-point line, on the way to a game-high 17 points, and Deja Acree had 11 points to go with a team-high three assists. Denver Clyde (six rebounds) added eight points while Rose Smith and Emon Heath each contributed six points.
Heath, a reserve forward whose primary contributions this year have come on defense, went 3-for-5 from the field for six points while playing 20 minutes in one of her most extended playing times of the season.
"She (Heath) came in and gave us some good minutes," said Nichols.
The Skipjacks scored 38 second-half points thanks in part to second-chance shots as Chesapeake finished with a 27-13 edge in offensive rebounds on the way to a 51-43 advantage in total boards.
Chesapeake, currently sixth in the nation in scoring defense, allowed just 56.3 points per game while winning three games in three days after an opening-round tournament loss. And the Skipjacks played on four straight days with just an eight-player roster that included Katara Pressley, who played one minute in each of the last two games after missing three weeks with a sprained ankle.
"You could see it yesterday," said Nichols, referring to Friday’s overtime victory against Prairie State College. "They were drained. But they kept answering the call."
The Skipjacks, who put together the program’s first 20-win regular season, went an impressive 8-1 in the postseason while winning state, regional and district titles leading up to their seventh-in-the-nation finish.
"It’s amazing for those girls to step it up and believe in me, believe in themselves and their teammates, and get the job done," said Nichols. "I knew I had a good team coming in, but you know . . . this was great."
"It was kind of surreal in a sense because of where we were last year (9-15 record) to come as far as we came this year," said Jones. "It was kind of bittersweet in the locker room knowing this was my last game. I enjoyed it. This was the best team I’ve ever played on."
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