How bad were things looking for the Jamestown Community College Jayhawks early in the second half of Thursday's NJCAA Region 3 Division II women's basketball game?
''We were close to getting a tag put on our big toe,'' JCC coach George Sisson said.
But after scoring only 12 points in the first half and trailing the Niagara County CC Lady Thunderwolves by 17 points with 13:40 left to play, the Jayhawks rose from the dead and pulled out an impressive 49-43 victory.
Brook Draggett of Jamestown Community College fires a shot over Jessica Curry of Niagara County CC during Thursday’s NJCAA Region 3 Division II women’s basketball game. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Jim Riggs
''This was not looking good for the Jayhawks,'' Sisson said. ''We could have folded the tents. We could have just put our heads down and said it's not the Jayhawks' night."
"It was not the Jayhawks' night, but we found a way and the way was full-court man-to-man pressure and having some trust that I'll go guard mine and you go guard yours and we're going to get it done. We had some character. It wasn't a night that any of us will put in the scrapbook except the headline.''
JCC moved to 13-4 with the win and 1-0 in Region 3 Division II while NCCC is 6-6 and 0-1.
The game moved at a snail's pace from the start. Each team had only a basket apiece after 3:20 of play as turnovers were more abundant than points.
NCCC went on to finish the half with 19 turnovers while JCC had 18. Taylor Storer committed nine for the Jayhawks while Murray Courtney had six for the Thunderwolves.
After eight minutes of play, JCC held what would be its largest lead of the half, four points, at 6-2.
That lead quickly disappeared as NCCC's Jessica Curry hit a 2- and 3-pointer. But things didn't look good for the Lady Thunderwolves when their point guard, Ashtin Fiegel, went to the bench with three fouls with 10 minutes left in the half.
JCC was leading by a point when Niagara County came alive and ran off 12 straight points in four minutes for a 21-10 lead with 1:30 left to play. During the run, the Jayhawks appeared to be a step behind the Lady Thunderwolves, which helped contribute to their turnover total. And when JCC did get off a shot, it was one-and-done as NCCC grabbed the rebound.
''Their length early just really shook us in that zone,'' Sisson said. ''It seemed like everything we wanted to do... we'd throw right in their hands. Shots were blocked. Their length really bothered us. And you could just see us getting tighter and tighter.''
He added, ''We couldn't score, so we couldn't press and we couldn't get the game up-tempo.''
With five seconds left, Kelsie Beaver swished a basket to stop the bleeding for JCC and cut the NCCC lead to 21-12 at halftime.
''There was no yelling and screaming,'' Sisson said about his halftime talk. ''You score 12 points, are you kidding? We talked about some things and I tried to put a calm to it.''
JCC had shot only 5 for 27 in the first half, including 0 for 9 from 3-point range, while NCCC was 7 for 30.
But things didn't look any better for JCC for the first 5 minutes of the second half. The Lady Thunderwolves continued to roll with a 12-4 run to lead by 17, 33-16.
The visitors were still in front by 17 with 13:40 left to play when everything changed and it was suddenly JCC on a roll. The Jayhawks went on a 20-2 run to take a 38-37 lead with 7:50 left to play.
Ashley DePane got it all started with a drive to the hoop for a bucket followed by a pair a free throws and later Beaver hit a pair of 3-pointers and then drove for a layup after stealing the ball from the arms of an NCCC player.
The Lady Thunderwolves managed to bounce back and took a three-point lead with 4:25 left to play. But from that point, JCC outscored them 9-2 to lock up the win. And that's because the Jayhawks were able to control the tempo.
''In the zone, all the (NCCC) bigs look great,'' Sisson said about NCCC. ''Things don't look so good with them dribbling the ball and sooner or later they were going to turn it over.''
It was tied at 43 with 1:10 left when DePane drove to the hoop and completed a three-point play. With 16.2 second left, Beaver iced the win by hitting two free throws for a five-point lead.
Beaver led JCC with 19 points while DePane had 17. Storer led in rebounding with eight while Beaver had six.
Sisson noted the key to the win wasn't points.
''It was Storer defensively, it was DePane defensively, it was Beaver defensively,'' Sisson said. ''It was Kaylee Sheldon coming in.''
Niagara County was led by Jessica Curry with 23 points and 13 rebounds, and Kristine Ripson had 22 rebounds.
Starting off the regional schedule with a loss would have been costly for JCC and it would have been more costly at home.
''It's a great win for our girls,'' Sisson said. ''I'm just so proud of them not giving up. The faith that they had in each other, the resolve that they had.''
The Jayhawks return to action on Saturday in a Region 3 Division II game at Mercyhurst North East at 1 p.m.
NIAGARA COUNTY (43)
Longwe 1 0-0 2, Fiegel 1 0-2 2, Ripson 3 0-1 6, Bojarski 0 2-2 2, Curry 9 4-7 23, Murray 3 0-0 6, Drake 1 0-0 2, Totals 18 6-12 43
Storer 2 1-5 5, Beaver 73-4 19, Sheldon 1 2-4 4, Biela 1 0-0 2, Saglimben 0 0-0 0, Draggett 1 0-0 2, DePane 5 6-7 17, Smith 0 0-0 0, Nickerson 0 0-0 0, Sands 0 0-0 0, Totals 17 12-18 49.
Halftime-Niagara County 21, JCC 12. 3-point goals- Curry, Beaver 2, DePane. Total fouls-Niagara County 19, JCC 16. Fouled out -Drake, Fiegel.