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Lady ‘Blazers fall to No. 1 Wabash Valley in District P championship game

INA, Ill. – It took the nation’s best team to dash the Vincennes University women’s basketball team’s hope of winning the NJCAA Division I District P Tournament championship game on Friday.

The Lady ‘Blazers and Wabash Valley, No. 1 in the Division I national poll and undefeated, were locked in a tight game for three quarters at Rend Lake College. The Warriors pulled away in the fourth quarter and VU fell 95-78.

Winning the championship game would have earned the Lady ‘Blazers an automatic bid to the national tournament. Now they must wait to see if they are a recipient of one of eight at-large berths to the NJCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship Tournament March 18-23 in Lubbock, Texas. The selection show is Monday, March 11.

In 2018, VU played Wabash Valley in the District P Tournament championship game. The Lady ‘Blazers were aiming for a different result this time around especially since they played the Warriors close in an 81-70 regular-season loss one week ago. In January, Wabash Valley beat VU 89-62.

In the first quarter on Friday, VU took the lead a couple times. Freshman Fess Hawkins made a putback that put VU up 10-9. Freshman Jhala Henry knocked down a 3-pointer and VU was ahead 13-11. At the end of the first quarter, Wabash Valley led 25-19.

The Lady ‘Blazers unleashed an eight-point run in the second quarter. Redshirt freshman Jaynice Stovall hit two free throws and VU was within 46-41 with 28.3 seconds before halftime. The Lady Blazers went into halftime trailing 49-41.

“We played really well in the first half,” VU Assistant Coach Clyde Buck said. “We played pretty good defense and mix it up with man and zone. Offensively we hung in there in what we were trying to execute. We were down eight at halftime and we were right there. We hung with them.

“In the second half, we played a couple girls a lot of minutes. Maybe more than we normally would, but to have a chance to beat the No. 1 team in the country and a team that hadn’t lost a game, you kind of have to do something like that. We played some players that were maybe a little tired, but a couple of girls in the first half came off the bench and did a real nice job.  (Grace Yocum, Cristina De La Cruz and Nickelle O’Neil) did a nice job especially in the first half.”

The Lady ‘Blazers challenged Wabash Valley in the third quarter. Stovall was fouled with two minutes remaining. She sank back-to-back free throws and VU was only down 67-62.

“We were playing the No. 1 team in the nation with two minutes left in the third quarter and we are right there,” Buck said. “It was 67-62. That’s two possessions.”

Wabash Valley scored the last nine minutes of the quarter for a 76-62 advantage at the end of three quarters, then pulled away.

VU finished 24-for-26 at the free throw line with Stovall making 13 of 14 foul shots.

“Shooting that good…you hope it’s a one-possession game,” Buck said.

Stovall collected 23 points, seven rebounds and five steals. Sophomore Ivanda Hudjakova contributed 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Hawkins finished with 14 points and eight rebounds.

During a ceremony following the game, four VU players were awarded all-Region 24 honors. Hawkins, Henry, Hudjakova and Stovall were named to the 15-player team.

The Lady ‘Blazers have a 23-8 overall record and will learn Monday if they are recipients of an at-large berth.

The NJCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Selection Show will stream live for free on NJCAA  TV, Facebook Live, and Twitter on Monday at 11 a.m. EDT.

 

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MARCIA MARTINEZ, University Life Reporter & Sports Information Director
   812-888-4164 office, 314-599-1519 cell, VUNews@vinu.edu, mmartinez@vinu.edu


VINCENNES UNIVERSITY, Department of University Relations, www.vinu.edu/newsroom

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