SALINA, Kan. —After making the Elite Eight last year in the national basketball tournament, the Apache Ladies are eyeing a bigger prize in 2015.

Tyler Junior College starts its journey Monday for what it hopes is the path to a national basketball championship.

No. 10 seed TJC (28-4) opens against No. 23 Lawson State (Alabama) (24-9) at 8:30 p.m. Monday in a first-round matchup in the NJCAA Division I Women's National Basketball Tournament at the Bicentennial Center.

It is the 11th national tournament trip for the Apache Ladies and the fifth under coach Trenia Tillis-Jones.

"It is always special to go to the national tournament," Tillis-Jones said. "It is what we seek and it is what we strive for. It is a blessing every time you go."

Tillis-Jones took the Apache Ladies to the national tournament during her first year as coach in 2001, a year after TJC won it all under Lee Ann Riley.

That was the last time the Apache Ladies have gone back-to-back to nationals until this year.

The Apache Ladies are ranked No. 7 in the nation (only teams who won regionals are eligible for the top eight seeds) and finished second to No. 4 Trinity Valley Community College in the Region XIV Tournament last week in Jacksonville.

TJC is led by lightning-quick and sure-shooting guard Victoria Kemokai of Richmond. The 5-3 sophomore is averaging 15.8 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game. She plays point guard and shooting guard.

Brittny Norris, a 5-9 shooting guard from Dallas, leads the team in scoring at 17.1 per game. She is shooting 39.1 percent from 3-point land. Also in double figures is Jasmine Prophet, a 6-0 sophomore from Houston. Prophet pitches in 12.5 points per game.

Both Sandy Jackson (5-7 point guard from North Little Rock, Arkansas) and Chelsi Watson (5-9 forward from Monroe, Louisiana) are near double digits at 9.3 and 8.0, respectively, per game. Jackson and Watson can also clean the glass, averaging 7.3 and 6.2 rebounds, respectively, per game.

The Lady Cougars have two players averaging double-doubles — 5-9 sophomore guard Ashley McCrear of Birmingham, Alabama, (12.8 ppg. 10.2 rpg) and 6-0 sophomore guard Kara Rawls of Hoover, Alabama (10.9 ppg, 12.9 rpg).

Destini McClary, a 5-6 freshman guard from Stone Mountain, Georgia, also hits for 13.5 points per game.

The winner of the TJC-Lawson State game advances to meet No. 7 Southern Idaho (21-11) at 3 p.m. Wednesday.

 
 

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I am a native Tylerite and I grew up reading the Tyler Morning Telegraph and The Tyler Courier-Times. My parents took both the morning and afternoon papers. I came to work here 35 years ago at the age of 23, right after college.