SHAWNEE – Even though Region II Most Valuable Player Wilka Montout sat out half of the first half with foul problems, the 6-foot-5 sophomore scored 15 of her game-high 19 total points in the second half to lead the No. 2 seed Northeastern A&M Lady Norse to a 66-50 victory Thursday afternoon over No. 10 seed Eastern State College in the Women’s Division I Region II Tournament quarterfinals in the Oklahoma Baptist University Noble Complex.
While winning their fifth straight game, coach Jim Rowland’s Lady Norse advance to Saturday’s 3 p.m. semifinals with a 21-9 season record. The loss ended Eastern’s season at 10-21 overall.
In other women’s quarterfinals Thursday found No. 5 seed Connors State College (18-12) upset No. 4 seed Murray State College (17-11) by a 68-59 score.
Three-time defending Region II champion and No. 5 nationally ranked Northern Oklahoma College-Enid (28-3) defeated No. 8 seed Western State College (9-18) by a 74-53 margin.
The NOC-Enid Lady Jets face Connors at 1 p.m. Saturday in the first semifinal game.
The Lady Norse will face the No. 3 seed Seminole State College (19-8) in Saturday’s 3 p.m. semifinal. The Belles scored 53 points in the second half en route to an 83-73 win over No. 6 seed Northern Oklahoma College-Tonkawa (16-16) in Thursday’s last quarterfinal.
“We’re still in that survive-and-advance mode after getting a win in our first game,” Rowland said. “Now our girls can relax knowing that we got through that first game.”
The four Men’s Division I Region II quarterfinals will be played Friday before the two regionals join forces for semifinal games on Saturday and championship games on Sunday.
Men’s quarterfinal games start at 1 p.m. Friday with No. 2 seed Connors (22-7) playing No. 10 seed Carl Albert State (6-23) followed by No. 3 seed Northern-Enid (20-9) facing 11th seed Arkansas Baptist College (19-12) at 3 p.m. The No. 4 seed NOC-Tonkawa (17-13) battles No. 5 seed Murray State (13-14) at 6 p.m. before No. 1 seed Eastern (27-3) faces No. 9 seed Western State (14-16) at 8 p.m.
“We’re staying in Shawnee on Friday to gain some consistency and continuity,” Rowland said. “It wouldn’t be good to have to jump on the bus and come home, then workout at home and jump right back on the bus and come down here Friday night for Saturday’s game.
“Our focus has to be on winning both Saturday and Sunday, so we need to avoid as many distractions as we can,” Rowland said. “I would rather that we were playing boom, boom, boom in a row.”
Eastern managed only two leads the entire game against the Lady Norse and both occurred in the first 11 minutes of the first half.
A solo free throw by Demetra Howlingwolf and a 3-pointer by Brandi Whitmore gave the Lady Mountaineers a 4-0 lead in the opening two minutes.
“We were tight the first 10 minutes of the ball game and were taking bad shots,” Rowland said. “We called a time out and I told the girls to relax and let the shots come to them and don’t try and take shots that you are normally taking.”
Consecutive field goals by Katy Cooper, Kendrea Harbert and two inside the paint from Montout gave NEO an 8-4 margin with 14:19 until halftime.
Three layups by Eastern’s Jamie Hicks and a putback from Howlingwolf created a 12-10 lead with 9:21 remaining before intermission.
NEO’s 13th nationally ranked defense held Eastern scoreless the remainder of the half while Montout was banished to the bench with two personal fouls and four total points.
Sophomore guard Bri-Ana Garza ignited a 17-point outburst with eight points as the Lady Norse constructed a 27-12 lead at half. Four points in the paint by freshman Ilze Teilane along with two free throws by Cooper and a 3-pointer by Eliana Fernandez accounted for NEO’s points.
“Our girls have to understand that when you take bad shots on the offensive end, then it usually results in points at the other end,” Rowland said. “When we got tired, we did that and Eastern climbed back into the game with less than five minutes left.”
During the first eight minutes of the second half, Montout and Megan Scheiber combined for seven points each along with four points by Garza and field goals by Cooper and Harbert to generate a 49-20 Lady Norse cushion.
Over the next 10 minutes, Eastern went on a 23-11 run to close the deficit to 60-43 with 2:18 showing on the clock. Eight points by Ashley Catlett along with five points by Whitmore and four each by Patrina Gorcee and Howlingwolf fueled the Lady Mountaineers rally.
Field goals by Cooper and Tiara Malone along with two free throws by Garza accounted for NEO’s final points in the last two minutes.
Along with Montout’s 19 total points, the Lady Norse received 11 points from Cooper, Garza 10, Scheiber 9, Fernandez 7, Teilane 6, Harbert 2 and Malone 2.
Catlett tallied 14 points to lead Eastern while Hicks scored 10, Goree 9, Howlingwolf 8, Whitmore 8 and Skylar Burris 1.
The Lady Norse connected on 27 of 53 for 51 per cent from the field compared to 20 of 51 for 39 per cent by the Lady Mountaineers.
Cooper grabbed nine rebounds to give NEO a 32 to 29 advantage on the boards. Hicks collected seven rebounds to lead Eastern.