SALINA, Kan. — After waiting almost a year to get back in the Bicentennial Center, the Trinity Valley Lady Cardinals wanted to prove they were ready to challenge for a national title.
No. 1-ranked TVCC did just that on Tuesday, scoring an 88-51 win over No. 16 seed Malcolm X (Ill.) College in a first round game of the NJCAA Women’s National Basketball Tournament.
Although it wasn’t the Lady Cardinals’ best showing, it did let the other teams know TVCC is not content on finishing as runner-up two straight years. Last season, the Athens school fell to North Idaho in the championship.
“We didn’t play our best basketball by any stretch of the imagination,” said TVCC co-head coach Kenya Landers, whose club is 33-0. “We played well in stretches. ... We know we have to be better; the girls know we have to be better.”
The Lady Cardinals (32-0) advance to play in the quarterfinals at 6 p.m. Thursday. TVCC will play Shelton (Ala.).
Malcolm X (16-16) will play at noon Thursday in the consolation bracket.
It was a tight game for a portion of the first half, before TVCC went on a 23-3 run to take a 47-22 halftime lead. It was generated by a pressure defense, along with full-court or half-court traps.
Guard Breanna Lewis led TVCC with 23 points, while three other Lady Cardinals were in double figures — Ska’Kayla Caples (14 points), Starr Breedlove (13) and Jenea Barrett (13). Keiana Vines led TVCC with 12 rebounds, while Keuna Flax had eight boards.
Also, the Trinity Valley bench outscored the Hawks 43-1 and the Lady Cardinals scored 43 points off turnovers. In fact, Lewis plays the role of sixth-man, along with Barrett.
“They just come at you in waves,” said Malcolm X coach Kimberly McQuarter, whose club is 16-16 overall. “That’s the reason they are No. 1. ... They have such a strong bench.”
Adriana Novak led the Hawks with 17 points, while Tierra Williams had 10 rebounds.
Lewis said the Lady Cardinals are anything but satisfied.
“We started out kind of ragged; and then we turned up the intensity,” said the sophomore from Greenville, Miss. “We started executing better just before halftime. It is something we can definitely build on.”
It was the second straight year the Hawks opened with the top seed. Last year, the Chicago school met No. 1 Pensacola (Fla.) State College and lost 80-50.
“I did see some positives from my young ladies; and it is something we can use to improve for our next game,” McQuarter said.
NOTES — During the opening ceremonies, there was a moment of silence for former Trinity Valley coach Kurt Budke and former Lady Cardinal Miranda Serna. The two were killed in a plane crash west of Little Rock, Ark., on Nov. 17. Budke led the Lady Cardinals to four national titles; and Serna played on one of the championship teams. Budke was the head coach at Oklahoma State at the time of his death, while Serna was his assistant. The Bicentennial Center court will be dedicated in his honor on Saturday. Budke is a Salina native. ... The nine-time NJCAA champion TVCC cheerleader squad performed for the Bicentennial crowd. They will compete in the national championships in April in Daytona Beach, Fla. ... The TVCC Jazz band is on hand as well. ... Kansas and Texas have some things in common, especially lately, lots of rain. ... Just as this year, TVCC defeated an Illinois team last year in the first round — in 2011, the Lady Cardinals beat John A. Logan, 84-55.
37th NJCAA Women’s National Women’s Basketball Tournament
Bicentennial Center, Salina, Kan.
No. 1 Trinity Valley Community College 88, No. 16 Malcolm X (Ill.) College 51
MALCOLM X — Fila Poe, 9; Tierra Williams, 8; Deangela Eaton, 8; Proscha Johnson, 8; Ariana Novak, 17; Marie Jackson, 1; Abre Reynolds, 0; Diana Brown, 0; Dreamina Wallace, 0.
TRINITY VALLEY — Keuna Flax, 8; Alice Robinson, 8; Sha’Kayla Caples, 14; Starr Breedlove, 13; Brittney Gill, 2; Jenea Barrett, 13; Keiana Vines, 3; Ashley Jones, 4.
THREE-POINT GOALS — MXC 4-7, Novak 4-6, Jackson 0-1. TVCC 5-15, Lewis 4-8, Falx 1-4, Caples 0-2, Barrett 0-1.
HALFTIME SCORE — TVCC 47-22.
FIELD GOALS — MXC 18-54. TVCC 34-75.
FREE THROWS — MXC 11-22. TVCC 15-26.
REBOUNDS — MXC 42 (Williams 10, Eaton 8). TVCC 47 (Vines 12, Flax 8).
TOTAL FOULS — MXC 18. TVCC 22.
ASSISTS — MXC 7 (Poe 2, Eaton 2). TVCC 12 (Caples 3, Breedlove 3, Barrett 3).
TURNOVERS — MXC 39, TVCC 20.
BLOCKS — MXC 1 (Eaton). TVCC 7 (Vines 5, Robinson, Barrett).
STEALS — MXC 11 (Novak 5, Poe 2, Johnson 2). TVCC 23 (Barrett 6, Breedlove 4).
RECORDS — Malcolm X 16-16, Trinity Valley 33-0.
NEXT UP — Consolation Quarterfinals: Malcolm X vs. Snow (Utah) or Shelton (Ala.), noon Thursday. Winners Backet Quarterfinal: Trinity Valley vs. Snow (Utah) or Shelton (Ala.), 6 p.m. Thursday.