HARRISON, Ark. – The basketball season came to a close Thursday for the North Platte Community College women, who lost a consolation game to South Suburban (Ill.) 82-60 in the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II championships from Pioneer Pavillion at North Arkansas College.
“This was definitely not the outcome we wanted but what we accomplished the last month of the season was outstanding,” North Platte Coach Jeff Thurman said. “Our student-athletes have nothing to hang their heads about.”
The Lady Bulldogs surged to a 12-point lead in the first quarter, but as the North Plate games have been over the past several weeks — the Knights fought back.
Down 22-10 with 1:32 left in the first quarter, North Platte fought back making three free throws in the next 55 seconds. A Trinity Langley (Potter, Neb.) bucket off a Madisyn Francis (Houston, Texas) assist with 32 second left in the half made it a seven-point game. After the Lady Bulldogs hit a basket, Francis came back to hit a bucket with two seconds left to pull the Knights to 24-17 at the end of the first quarter.
After neither team scored in the first two minutes of the second quarter, Francis hit a 3-pointer at the 8:57 mark to make it a 24-20 game. South Suburban muscled up and went on a 19-6 run over the next seven minutes to lead 39-26. The two teams traded baskets over their next possession, but Nahatabaa Nacona, (Chinle, Ariz.) went to the line and hit a free throw with 5 seconds left, missed a second free throw, but got her own rebound and sunk a 3-pointer at the buzzer to pull the Knights back within nine points at the half 41-32.
“We played with great effort and huge hearts today,” Thurman said. “I am extremely proud of each one of them.”
Just 56 seconds into the second half, Emily Joseph (St. Petersburg, Fla.) hit a 3-pointer to make it a six-point game at 41-35, but the Lady Bulldogs were able to put some distance on the Knights making a couple shots from distance, to stretch the lead to 47-35 and kept extending the lead – 15 points at the 6:07 mark, but once again, the Knights fought back.
A Joseph 3-pointer with 3:07 left in the third period cut the Lady Bulldog lead to 55-47 but that’s as close as the Knights got for the remainder of the game. South Suburban made it a 60-49 game at the end of the third period and held a 22-11 advantage in the final 10 minutes
It’s fitting that the two sophomores who led North Platte on the unlikely post-season run – Francis and Nacona led the Knights with 20 points 19 respectively, and they both went down fighting, with each player fouling out in the fourth quarter.
Joseph scored 13 points. Dehje Belmore, freshman, (Denver, Colo.) came off the bench to score six points. Langley led the Knights with nine rebounds (four on the offensive end).
North Platte shot 38.2 percent from the field, made seven of 23 shots from beyond the 3-point line, and 11 of 16 from the free-throw line.
Brianna Joiner led the Lady Bulldogs with 16 points. Yasmarella Thompson scored 15 off the bench. South Suburban also got double-digit games from Zakah Blake with 12 points and 11-point games from Diamond Stallworth and Danish Magette.
The Lady Bulldogs shot 42.5 percent for the game, made seven of 26 shots from the 3-point line (26.9 percent) and were 15 of 24 from the foul line (62.5 percent.) South Suburban out-rebounded North Platte 37-31 and scored 33 points in the paint compared to the 14 for North Platte.
The Lady Bulldogs scored 30 points off 23 North Platte turnovers. SSC turned the ball over 12 times.
South Suburban improves to 26-6 and will continue in the consolation round Friday at 1 p.m. for a chance in the seventh place game Saturday at noon.
North Platte finishes the season at 8-24.
“This year’s squad has set the bar high for next year and the years to follow,” Thurman said. “I’m honored to have coached this team this year.”