Cougars win Region Championship 64-53, on to Nationals!

The ICC women’s basketball team used balance and a great team effort to get a 64-53 victory over Lake Land College on Sunday to win the Region 24 championship and advance to the NJCAA Division II National Tournament on March 20-24 in Harrison, Arkansas.

The Cougars got contributions from up and down their lineup to wear down the Lakers and get the win, qualifying for the national tournament for the 28th time in program history. Both teams came out timid at the start, until Kathy Pinnock-Branford hit a layup (assist Kellyn Maynard) to get the Cougars on the board. Maynard hit a free throw and scores by Abby Coates and Jasmine Levy gave ICC a 7-2 lead, but Lake Land got on track to pull to within 13-12 at the end of the first quarter.

The Cougars opened a 21-15 lead on a rebound basket by Coates and scores by Maynard, Bailey Larsen, and Madison Faulkner, but the Lakers went on another run to catch up to 21-20. Again, ICC put scores together as Levy, Pinnock-Branford, and Coates combined to push ICC out to a 27-22 lead, but Lake Land pulled back to within 31-29 heading into halftime.

The third quarter was like a rugged tug of war, with a total of eight ties and seven lead changes. Lake Land struck first to tie the score, but Faulkner countered with a jumper (assist Coates), followed by two Maynard free throws and a Coates freebie to knot the score at 36-all. The Lakers sliced through the Cougar defense for two layups to take their first lead at 40-36 and give them the momentum. The Cougars called a time-out to regroup, and, following a Levy block, scored twice (a basket by Levy on an assist by Aubrey Magro and Coates scoring on an old-fashioned three-point play) to put ICC back up 41-40. Lake Land answered with a layup, but the Cougars started being more aggressive, both by getting into the quarter bonus and by implementing some full-court pressure to slow down the Laker guard-oriented offense. Coates grabbed a defensive board and out-letted to a streaking Walker, who turned on the afterburners in the full court for a layup and the Cougars went up 45-43. Following a Laker score, ICC had the last possession of the quarter, and Walker came up big again as she hit a jumper from the elbow just before time expired (assist Faulkner) to give ICC a 47-45 lead heading into the final stanza.

As it had all weekend, the strength of the Cougar bench sparkled in the fourth quarter, wearing down the Lakers to get some breathing room. Faulkner poked the ball away on the Cougar press which led to a Maynard basket. Walker got a defensive board and assisted Faulkner on a score on the next possession to go up 51-45. Lake Land turned the ball over on the ensuing possession, and Levy answered with a basket (assist Larsen) to go up 53-45. The Cougars, who hit seven treys in their Saturday game, only hit one on Sunday, but it was enormously huge, as Larsen swished a bomb from the right wing with the shot clock expiring (assist Faulkner) to put ICC up 56-47 at the 6:54 mark. The Lakers, of course, answered with a three of their own to close to within 56-50, but Levy responded with a basket inside (assist Larsen) to allow ICC to go back on top at 58-50 at the 4:36 mark. The Cougars dug in their heels over the next three minutes with solid defense and rebounding, as neither team scored, which was in ICC’s favor. Over that span until the 1:18 mark, the Cougars pulled down a total of five offensive rebounds (Walker, Larsen, Pinnock-Branford, and two by Maynard), allowing precious time to melt off the clock and more importantly, keep the ball out of the hands of the high-scoring Laker guards. The Cougars played keep-away the final 1:18, as Sia Williams and Larsen hit six free throws to earn ICC the championship and the coveted trip to Arkansas.

Game goals:

Individual stats:

Coates (12 pts, 7 reb, 4 asts), Larsen (12 pts, 7 reb, 3 asts), Levy (12 pts), Walker (8 pts, 4 reb), Maynard (7 pts, 5 reb, 4 stls), Faulkner (6 pts, 3 asts, 2 stls), Pinnock-Branford (4 pts), Williams (3 pts).

Next up:

A total of sixteen teams qualify for the NJCAA Division II women’s basketball national tournament and seeds are determined by teams who win their respective region/district tourneys and then are seeded for the tournament.  ICC will find out their seed on Tuesday, and we will share that with fans in our email newsletter when we have that information.  The ICC campuses are on spring break this week, so the ladies will get caught up on homework and prepare for next week, both in the study labs and in the gym. 

Other:  

Following the game, the Cougar captains and team were awarded the Region championship plaque and the most outstanding player of the tournament award went to ICC forward Jasmine Levy. 

Members of the All-Region Team were also recognized for the season:

Ryan Dooley                               Parkland College

Erynn Young                               Lincoln College

Avery Jackson                             Lake Land

Danielle Conley                          Lewis and Clark

Madison Jones                           Lincoln Land

Autumn Voigt                             John Wood

Allyshah Boothe                        Lincoln College

Madison Faulkner                     Illinois Central

Micah Tapscott                         Parkland College

Madelyn Brouwer                    Parkland College

Honorable Mention

Destinique Williams                  Lewis and Clark

Kylie Vogel                                  Danville Area

Teara Walker                              Lewis and Clark

Nautica Preston                         Lincoln College

Hannah Krukewitt                     Lincoln Land

Player of the Year:  Ryan Dooley, Parkland College

Coach of the Year:  Matt Vavro, Lincoln College

Special thanks:

Thank you to all of the fans who cheered from both the bleachers in Springfield and watching from home.  Special thanks to Alex Staab, for providing livestream of all three games and to Donna Thomas and Margaret Kizer for keeping stats for the weekend.