The established sophomores for the Apache Ladies were better than the five transfers for Paris on Wednesday night at Wagstaff Gymnasium.
Cecilia Okoye had 22 points and 12 rebounds, and Ashley Benjamin contributed 15 points and 10 rebounds to lead Tyler Junior College to a 76-73 victory over the Lady Dragons in a battle of top Region XIV women’s basketball teams.
The men’s game was all Paris, which used a 22-2 second-half run to beat the Apaches, 79-63. The doubleheader was the final conference games of the fall semester.
The Apache Ladies (8-4, 3-1 Region XIV) were in control for the most part, despite some tense moments in the final 90 seconds.
Paris (10-2, 2-1) cut an 8-point deficit to one (73-72) with 1:30 left. The Apache Ladies followed with a turnover at the other end, but had a good defensive possession as the Lady Dragons were forced to use almost all of the shot clock before missing a jumper.
Paris was then called for a loose-ball foul that sent TJC’s Keaira Arion to the line for two free throws. Arion made both foul shots to give TJC a three-point lead with 52 seconds left.
On the next series, the Lady Dragons’ Karmyn Jackson took a shot in the post and Okoye blocked the shot but was whistled for a foul — her fifth. Jackson made 1 of 2 to make it 75-73.
Freshman post Kirbi Clark (11 points, 6 rebounds) rebounded a TJC miss with 18.5 seconds to play and then went 0 for 2 from the free throw line to give Paris a chance for the win or tie.
Chikilra Goodman missed a shot for Paris, but Jackson pulled down the offensive rebound and drew a foul with 7.8 on the clock. The first free throw was no good and the second one may have been missed on purpose, with the Lady Dragons hopeful of tying the game on a putback.
Instead, Benjamin wrestled away the rebound for the Apache Ladies and went to the line where she left the door open slightly — hitting 1 of 2 free throws to make it 76-73 with just a few ticks remaining.
Paris had time for a halfcourt heave, but never even attempted a shot as the buzzer sounded on the TJC victory.
TJC had an 8-point lead twice in the first half and a 14-point cushion with 12:50 remaining in regulation. The Lady Dragons led briefly by three points late in the first half.
Paris (9-2, 2-1 North) won with its trademark tough defense, limiting the Apaches (8-3, 2-2 North) to 33 percent (21 of 64) from the field and 29 percent (7 of 24) from 3-point land.
The Dragons were even worse from outside. They made 5 of 20 (25 percent) 3-pointers, but were an efficient 51 percent on 2-pointers and 78 percent (18 of 23) on free throws.
TJC jumped out to a 14-4 lead before getting outscored 14-0. A flurry of 3-pointers from Hershey Robinson and Trent Washington (two) swung the lead back the Apaches way, but Paris closed the first half on a 12-2 run for a 6-point lead at the break.
The Apaches committed five consecutive turnovers early in the second half, setting the stage for the Dragons to take command, 57-33, with 10:58 left.
After a technical foul on TJC head coach Mike Marquis, the Apaches employed a full-court press to harass Paris into a flurry of turnovers and missed shots to claw within 13 at the 7:54 mark. Jaron Johnson (13 points, five rebounds) scored to bring TJC within 62-52 with 4:25 left, and the score was 71-60 at the 1:55 mark.
Freshman guard Ta’Jon Welcome paced the Apaches with 18 points. Paris had four players in double figures and two more with nine points.