SHAWNEE — Two teams that squared off 22 days ago during the regular season square off at 3 p.m. Thursday as the No. 1 seed Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College Lady Norse face the No. 8 seed Western State College Pioneers in the quarterfinals of the Women’s Division I Region II Tournament in the Don Sumner Field House at St. Gregory’s University.
Ranked No. 10 in the final regular season National Junior College Athletic Association national poll with a 25-2 record, the four time-defending regional champion Lady Norse finished 15-1 in the Oklahoma Collegiate Athletic Conference.
“We can’t afford to play lackadaisical against Western,” Lady Norse head coach Jim Rowland said. “I want to make sure we stay locked in and playing hard from start to finish.
“We’ve got to stay focused defensively and not let up,” Rowland said. “If we’re not ready to play now, then we’ll never be ready.”
Faced with participating in a play-in game on Monday in Altus, the Western Lady Pioneers defeated Northern Oklahoma College-Tonkawa (11-18) by a 70-64 score. With the win, the Lady Pioneers are 9-18 on the season and 1-15 in the OCAC.
Including two wins during the regular season, the Lady Norse have won 11 straight games with Western dating back to the 2011-12 season. The Lady Pioneers earned a 58-50 victory over the Lady Norse in Altus on Jan. 15, 2012.
Limiting the Lady Pioneers to 20 total points in the first two quarters, the Lady Norse rolled to an 89-39 victory on Jan. 16 in the NEO Field House. Maria Delgado led NEO with 19 total points while Kamry Orr added 17, Jennah Coffman 13 and Mikayla Shalanberger 11.
All-region selection Hatty Nawezhi tallied 19 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead the Lady Norse to a 68-52 win on Feb. 16 in Miami.
“Even though there have been days when this team has really had to prepare, I really think they are ready to meet this challenge of playing three games in three days,” Rowland said.
Quarterfinal games in the single-elimination tournament start at 1 p.m. Thursday as the Connors State College Cowgirls (8-8 and 19-9) battle the Redlands State College Lady Cougars (8-8 and 16-11). The game will mark the first time in six years Connors has qualified for the tournament.
Following the NEO-Western matchup, No. 2 seed Northern Oklahoma College-Enid (13-3 and 22-6) will play at 6 p.m. against No. 7 seed Eastern State College Lady Mountaineers (7-9 and 14-15). Eastern defeated the Arkansas Baptist College Lady Buffaloes (10-21) of Little Rock, 86-73, in a Monday play-in game at Wilburton.
The No. 3 seed Seminole State College Belles (9-7 and 14-11) square off at 8 p.m. against No. 6 seed Murray State College Lady Aggies (7-9 and 11-15) in the final quarterfinal game.
Action on Friday features two men’s semifinal games starting at 1 p.m. before the two women’s semifinals tipoff at 6 p.m.
The championship games for the men will be at 2 p.m. followed by the women’s title contest at 4 p.m.
While the men’s NJCAA Division I national championship tournament is March 20-25 in the Hutchinson, Kansas Sports Arena, the women’s NJCAA Division I National Tournament will be March 20-25 for the second straight year in the Rip Griffin Center in Lubbock, Texas.
NEO earned a berth in the national tournament last season after planting an 80-58 decision on NOC-End in the title game.
The No. 13 seed Lady Norse defeated No. 20 seed Lake Region (Illinois) State 84-42 in the first round of the national tournament.
NEO suffered a 61-59 loss in the second round to No. 4 seed New Mexico Junior College.