After a victory in the opening round of the NJCAA Division II National Tournament, the CCRI women’s basketball team saw its title hopes come to an end with an 83-58 loss to Louisburg College last Wednesday. The Lady Knights played one more game at the tournament on Thursday and lost to Highland Community College 71-47, finishing the year with a 25-7 record.
Louisburg was the tournament’s No. 2 seed and, after the win over CCRI, the Lady Hurricanes went on to capture the national title. Against the Lady Knights, they took control early and extended an early lead out to 10 points. It only grew from there, as the Lady Hurricanes took a 50-19 lead into halftime. They shot 50 percent from the field, while CCRI made only 23 percent of their shots in the first half.
The second half was much closer, but the hole was too deep for the Lady Knights to get out of, and Louisburg cruised to the victory.
Leading the way for the Lady Knights was co-captain Jahira Smith, who scored 15 points with seven rebounds, three steals, and two blocked shots. The only other Lady Knight in double-figures was Ahnyyah Jackson with 13 points, six rebounds, and five assists. Lexi Barros added nine points and six rebounds while co-captain Jess Randall added seven points and a steal and Nyjah Porcher added 10 rebounds. Louisburg’s Olivia Gaines led all scorers with a game-high 20 points.
“When a team shoots 50 percent and you shoot 28 percent from the floor for the game, you can’t make mental errors and you can’t come out flat,” said CCRI head coach Kate Lynch. “Not at this level.”
CCRI returned to the court on Thursday with a chance to get into the fifth-place game if it could post a victory. The Lady Knights started down the right path, racing to a 12-2 lead just four minutes into the game.
Unfortunately for CCRI, that was about as good as it would get. Highland’s Janelle Sailing buried five three-pointers in the first half, which helped power her team to a 36-32 lead at the break.
In the second half, it fell apart for the Lady Knights. They shot just 19 percent from the field, while Highland continued to shoot well, especially from long range. Highland out-scored CCRI 19-9 over the first 10 minutes of the half and never looked back.
“We came out strong and intense,” Lynch said. “Highland is a great team. They fought back and made plays when they needed to. Once they went up on us, we couldn’t seem to find ourselves.”
Smith again led the charge for CCRI, closing our her career with 14 points, five rebounds, four assists, and three steals. She finishes as the program’s all-time leader in points, assists, steals and made free throws.
Also finishing strong was Porcher, who had 10 points, five rebounds and two assists. She’s the program’s record holder in single season rebounds, and she finished No. 2 in career rebounds.
CCRI’s 25-7 record is the third-best in program history.
“Very proud overall of what this team has accomplished and what the sophomores have accomplished individually as well,” Lynch said. “This class has put our program back on the map and it’s important that we keep building.”