SALINA, Kan. - Limited to four points over the final six minutes, No. 11 seed Northeastern A&M dropped a 52-42 decision to No. 6 seed New Mexico Junior College Tuesday afternoon in the opening round of the National Junior College Athletic Association Women's Division I National Tournament in the Bicentennial Center.
With the loss, coach Jim Rowland's Lady Norse carry a 23-10 record into Wednesday's 4 p.m. elimination game with No. 14 seed Southwestern Illinois College of Belleville.
The Blue Storm (27-7) suffered a 75-53 loss to No. 3 Central Arizona in Tuesday's first game.
Freshman guard Janelle Cannon (5-9 from Evanston, Ill.) led the Blue Storm with 27 points while Katrina Ottesen scored 22 and Brea Townsend added 21 for Central Arizona.
Coach Drew Sanders' New Mexico Lady Thunderbirds are 30-4 and battle the Central Arizona Vaqueras 30-1 at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
"Offensively, we've got to shoot the ball better than we did against New Mexico," Rowland said. "Our shots just weren't falling and we wnt into a big scoring drought toward the end of the game.
"Twice we cut their lead to four points )21-17 with 2:21 left in the first half and 42-38 with 6:01 left in the game) and both times Drew's team stepped up and made big shots to put some space between us," Rowland said. "He deserves a lot of credit for getting his kids ready to play and the (forward Waleska) Perez kid really had a career game against us. She was the difference."
During the first five minutes of the opening half neither team could settle in before the Lady Thunderbirds reeled off 10 straight points to build a 14-4 lead at the 8:53 juncture.
An Oklahoman - Honor Duvall, a 6-0 center from Cache - ignited the outburst with seven points inside the paint. Valarie Barriga added the other three points with a layup and a free throw.
"Our guards have got to shoot the ball better," Rowland said. "If they hit some shots on the perimeter, then that opens up the paint and allows 'We We' (Wilka Montout) to get some better looks at the basket.
"But, we had 10 turnovers in the first half which led to 11 points for them," Rowland said. "We've got to do a much better job of taking care of the basketball."
Trailing 21-12, the Lady Norse received a free throw from BriAnna Garza and field goals by Eliana Fernandez and Montout to trail 21-17 with 2:21 before halftime.
Perez (5-10 from Caracus, Venezuela) sank two 3-pointers as the Lady Thunderbirds carried a 27-21 lead to the locker room at intermission.
"I thought that was the turning point of the game," Rowland said. "If we could have built on the rally we got going, we could have taken control of the game. But, we had too many turnovers and missed too many shots."
A field goal by Katy Cooper created a 27-23 deficit with 19:10 left in the game.
But once again, the Lady Thunderbirds responded with a field goal by Perez and two free throws each by Te'onna Campbell and Kya DeGarmo to construct a 33-28 margin with 13:51 showing on the clock.
Six straight points by Perez, along with a layup by Barriga and a solo free throw by Duvall, created the largest lead of the game for NMJC at 42-31 with 9:23 remaining in the game.
Montout sank a field goal and free throw while Garza added a field goal and Megan Schieber hit two free throws to pull NEO to within four, 42-38 with 6:01 left on the clock.
Over the final five minutes, the Lady Thunderbirds received five points from Perez and three from DeGamo, along with a layup by Stacie Telles, to hold the Lady Norse at bay.
"Wilka has three turnovers in the paint and she's got to be stronger with the basketball," Rowland said. "But still, we've got to shoot better outside so the opposition can't just pack the paint and clog up the middle."
Montout led the Lady Norse with 11 points while Schieber contributed 10.
Cooper added six points while Fernandez, Garza and Kayla Anderson had five each.
The Lady Norse sank only 16-of-51(31 percent)from the field, including 4-of-19 from 3-point range, and 6-of-8 (75 percent) at the free throw line.
Perez led all scorers with 19 points while the 5-11 Duvall added 14 points and 13 rebounds.
NMJC also got seven from DeGamo, five each from Campbell and Barriga and two from Telles.
The Lady thunderbirds were limited to 27 percent from the field (17-of-64), including 5-of-20 from the 3-point area, and 13 of 22 for 59 per cent from the free throw line.
Not only did the Lady Norse surrender 24 points off turnovers, but the Lady Thunderbirds held a 20-8 advantage on the offensive boards. Cooper led NEO with 11 rebounds.
"They whipped our tails on the boards offensively," Rowland said. "We didn't do a very good job of blocking them off the glass at either end of the court."
Northeastern A&M (23-10) - Wilka Montout 4 3-4 11, Megan Schieber 3 2-2 10, Katy Cooper 3 0-0 6, Eliana Fernandez 2 0-0 5, BriAnna Garza 2 1-2 5, Kayla Anderson 2 0-0 5, Kendrea Harbert 0 0-0 0, Ilze Teilane 0 0-0 0. Totals 16 6-8 42.
New Mexico Junior College (30-4) - Waleska Perez 6 2-2 19, Honor Duvall 6 2-6 14, Kya DeGarmo 1 5-7 7, Te'onna Campbell 1 3-4 5, Valerie Barriga 2 1-3 5, Stacie Telles 1 0-0 2, Adrianna LeatherBury 0 0-0 0, Brianna Jones 0 0-0 0, Markia Thomas 0 0-0 0. Totals 17 13-22 52.
Halftime - NMJC 27, NEO 21. 3-point goals - NEO 4-19 (Schieber 2-4, Anderson 1-3, Fernandez 1-7, Cooper 0-1, Harbert 0-1, Garza 0-3); NMJC 5-20 (Perez 5-12, Duvall 0-1, Barriga 0-1, DeGarmo 0-2, Telles 0-4). Rebounds - NEO 33 (Cooper 11); NMJC 49 (Duvall 13). Assists - NEO 11 (Fernandez 4); NMJC 12 (DeGarmo 4). Steals - NEO 4 (Schieber 2); NMJC 9 (Perez 3). Blocked shots - NEO 6 (Montout 3); NMJC 2 (Perez 1, Campbell 1). Turnovers - NEO 19; NMJC 10. Total fouls - NEO 16; NMJC 14. Fouled out - none. Technical fouls - none.