SHAWNEE — Adhering to the philosophy of taking control of the game in the first five minutes, No. 10 ranked Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College defeated Western State College 86-55 Thursday night in the quarterfinals of the Women’s Division 1 Region II Basketball Tournament at Don Sumner Field House on the campus of St. Gregory’s University.
While winning their seventh consecutive post-season game, the two-time defending regional champions are one-third the way toward their third straight championship.
The No. 1 seed Lady Norse carry a 26-2 season record into the 6 p.m. semifinal game Friday against No. 4 seed Redlands Community College (17-11). The Lady Cougars advanced following a 70-63 victory over No. 5 seed Connors State College (19-10).
“We’ve got to come out hitting on all cylinders Friday because Redlands is a very tough dribble-drive basketball team,” Lady Norse head coach Jim Rowland said. “We have to understand that the Western game is over and we’ve got to move on.”
Guard Jade Josey sank a 3-point field goal to give the Lady Pioneers a 3-0 lead in the first two minutes of the opening quarter.
“I thought our team really responded well coming out of the gate,” Rowland said. “I told them before the game not to be over anxious, just relax because the first regional playoff game is always about not trying to do too much.
“They did a great job of letting the game come to them,” Rowland said. “After a couple of mistakes in the first two minutes, they began to relax and play their game.”
Two consecutive 3-pointers by Maria Delgado, two coast-to-coast layups by Mariah Green and a layup and free throw by Hatty Nawezhi propelled NEO to a 13-3 lead with 5:51 left in the first quarter.
A 3-pointer by Jennah Coffman and a layup by Mariah Green boosted the Lady Norse to an 18-6 margin at the 1:56 juncture.
Naweshi sank a short jump shot and Delgado and Coffman each sank a 3-pointer as NEO carried a 26-11 advantage into the second quarter.
Three points each by Raven Ringo and Angalyn Latin along with a regular field goal by Priscilla Murray rallied Western to a 26-19 deficit with 7:15 until halftime.
Coffman re-entered off the bench and scored eight straight points while Nawezhi added a layup as the Lady Norse constructed a 36-19 margin with 5:30 showing on the clock.
Consecutive field goals by Jasmine Perry, Jal’Lynn Anderson, Randi Thompson, Karen Hopkins and Murray rallied the Lady Pioneers to a 43-31 deficit through the first two quarters.
“All the kids that came into the game and did produce, they could have done that all year long,” Rowland said. “When this team does that, we’re pretty good because we don’t want to have to rely on two or three people to pull us through.”
During the first six minutes of the third quarter, the Lady Norse received 3-point field goals by Kamry Orr and Green along with regular field goals to build a 51-39 lead.
Over the final four minutes NEO’s offense generated four points by Nawezhi, three points by Sara Boric and a layup by Coffman to grab a 62-43 cushion heading into the fourth quarter.
Outscoring Western by a 24-12 margin during the final 10 minutes, the depth of the Lady Norse bench began to show.
Six points by both Mikayla Shulanberger and Coffman along with field goals by Lauryn Washington, Latarzyna Olczak and Orr allowed NEO to hold Western at bay.
Coffman led the Lady Norse with 18 points while Naweshi added 13 and 11 rebounds, Orr had 12, Delgado 11, Green 10, Boric nine, Shulanberger six, Washington and Olczak two each and Larranaga one.
Murray paced Western with 14 points, Ringo 10, Ashley Dodd 7, Karen Hopkins 6, Makayla Jackson 4, Exhe Harvey 4, Angalyn Latin 3, Perry 2, Anderson 2, Ciara Asberry 2 and Thompson 2.