OVERLAND PARK, Kan. – NIACC’s run toward a national title came to an end Friday night.
Fourth-seeded Mesa Community College stopped top-seeded NIACC 85-73 in the NJCAA Division II semifinals on the Johnson Community College campus Friday night.
NIACC (33-3) plays third-seeded St. Clair County Community College (30-3) in the consolation game at 5 p.m. Saturday. Mesa CC (27-5) faces second-seeded Highland Community College (33-2) in Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. title game.
In Friday’s game, NIACC had a chance to tie the contest at 74-74 with 3:50 left in the contest when Morgan Walker went to the line for two free throws. Walker hit one of two to trim the deficit to a single-point.
But it was all Mesa after that as the Thunderbirds outscored the Lady Trojans 11-0 to advance to the national title game.
“It wasn’t a difference in Mesa,” NIACC coach Kelli Terrell said. “They (the Thunderbirds) were playing their hearts out the entire game.
“It was a difference with us for effort and attitude. We didn’t want to win that game and it really showed. I think everyone could see that it showed. I’m really disappointed that we came this far to lose for a lack of effort.”
NIACC, which is playing in its first national tournament in 20 years, was seeking its first berth in the national finals in 39 years. The Lady Trojans dropped a 59-58 decision to Temple Junior College in the inaugural junior college women’s basketball tournament in 1975.
In Friday’s contest, NIACC led 42-40 at the half and Terrell said she thought things were going as planned heading into the final 20 minutes.
“I thought our leaders were going to make a change but it never happened,” Terrell said. “We never snapped into it. It was complete choice to not do that.”
Peace Amukamara led Mesa with 23 points and Madi Austin was next in line with 15 points. Lacy Viselli scored 12 points for the Thunderbirds and Leslie Tademy and Lariah Willadsen also reached double figures with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
NIACC, which had its 17-game winning streak snapped, was led by sophomore Chelsey Jacox with 21 points. Sophomore Lateeka Thompson scored 19 points and Walker scored 10 points.
NIACC was outrebounded by Mesa 47-32 and was 5 of 34 from 3-point range.
Now NIACC has less than 24 hours to refocus for Saturday’s consolation game against St. Clair County, which dropped a 69-64 decision to Highland CC in the first semifinal Friday night.
“We’ll see how we bounce back,” Terrell said.
Notes: NIACC coach Kelli Terrell has a career record of 63-35 … Jacox has 1,163 career points … Thompson has 864 career points … Emily Bell has 108 career 3-point goals, which ranks second on the school’s all-time list … Bell passed Jennifer Currier (1986-88), who had 107 career 3-point goals.
– By Kirk Hardcastle, NIACC sports information director
MESA CC 85, NIACC 73
Mesa CC – Leslie Tademy 11, Mariah Willadsen 10, Peace Amukamara 23, Madi Austin 15, Kylie Herd 2, Lacey Viselli 12, Erica Vasquez 2, Megan Gillespie 8, Yasmine Woodard. Totals – 25-63 25-30 85.
NIACC – Kadejah Young 6, Chelsey Jacox 21, Lateeka Thompson 19, Sierra Ford-Washington 9, Cortni Rush 3, Emily Bell 3, Morgan Walker 10, Taylor Bianchi 2. Totals – 23-62 22-29 73.
3-point goals – Mesa (10-20): Tademy 3, Willadsen 1, Amukamara 5, Austin 1. NIACC (5-34): Young 2, Thompson 1, Rush 1, Bell 1. Total fouls – Mesa 25, NIACC 22. Fouled out – Herd, Ford-Washington. Score at half: NIACC 42, Mesa 40.