Cougars Edge Ancilla, On to Elite 8

The ICC women’s basketball team made just enough plays to win a wild and wooly contest on Tuesday night, earning a hard-fought 87-81 victory over Ancilla College (Plymouth, IN) in the opening round of the NJCAA Division II National Tournament in Harrison, AR. The game lived up to its billing, pitting the #8 seeded Cougars against the #9 seeded Chargers, with the winner not decided until the final seconds. ICC helped their cause by hitting 10 of 13 free throws in the final period (22-29 overall for 76%) and made just enough defensive plays down the stretch to advance to the Elite 8 for the second time in the last three seasons.

Ancilla came out firing to start the game, attacking the Cougar zone from all angles and putting the Blue & Gold on their heels and fell behind early, 21-15 after the first quarter of play behind Madison Faulkner’s six points in the frame.

Abby Coates and Jasmine Levy scored inside to get ICC going, but the Chargers responded with back-to-back three-pointers and surged ahead at 30-19 with 8:15 in the second quarter. The game could have easily gotten out of hand at this point, but Sia Williams found Kellyn Maynard for an easy basket, followed by a Levy score to get ICC back on track. Aubrey Magro then cashed in for a trey and Coates hit a free throw to bring ICC to within 33-27 at the 5:30 mark. Pinnock-Branford took a charge on defense that then sparked a 10-2 run with Larsen nailing a three (assist Levy), and then ICC got three offensive rebounds on the same possession allowing Krystal Walker to cash in a trey from the right baseline, followed by Faulkner and Maynard scores (assists Larsen & Pinnock-Branford) to knot the score at 37-all. The Cougars finally snatched the lead as Magro nailed another three-pointer (assist Emma Henderson), taking a 43-42 lead into the half.

Pinnock-Branford took two huge charges on the Ancilla point guard (LaRae Roscoe, who finished with a game-high 23 points) on two of the first three possessions to start the half, forcing the Chargers’ most potent offensive weapon to go to the bench with three fouls. This allowed the Cougars to amp up their defensive pressure and slowly they were able to build a small lead. Levy and Maynard combined to score eight of the next nine ICC points, followed by Williams and Walker baskets top put ICC up 55-49. The teams traded scores to end the quarter with the Cougars holding a 64-59 advantage heading into the final period.

Faulkner opened the quarter with a nice drive to the hoop, followed by an old-fashioned three-point play by Larsen to put ICC up 71-64. The Cougars maintained the lead on more Larsen freebies, a Levy basket, and Henderson backdoor cut (on a nice pass from Maynard) to keep the distance at 77-69. Williams hit a dagger of a three-ball as the shot clock expired to give the Cougars an 84-75 lead but then some head-scratching Cougar passes led to Ancilla steals and scores, allowing them to pull to within 84-80 with :37 remaining, but thankfully Larsen made three of four free throws to put the game out of reach (and thankfully time expired!) to advance the Cougars into the Elite 8.

Game goals met:

Individual stats

Larsen (17 pts, 3 asts), Maynard (14 pts, 7 reb), Levy (12 pts, 7 reb, career high 7 blks), Faulkner (12 pts, 5 reb, 2 blks), Coates (7 pts, 6 reb, 3 st), Williams (7 pts), Magro (6 pts), Pinnock-Branford (3 chgs taken, 4 pts), Walker (5 stls, 5 pts), Henderson (3 pts).

Next up:

The Cougars, now 27-7 overall, get a break from game action on Wednesday. They will prepare to face the tourney’s #1 seed, Monroe College (NY), who boasts a 30-2 record and was a 78-43 winner over #16 seed Harcum on Tuesday evening. Monroe is averaging 89.5 ppg and is 2nd in the NJCAA in 3-point field goals made per game (12.6) and attempted per game (35.9).

How to tune in:

Listen to ICC student, Alex Staab, to hear an AUDIO-only broadcast on periscope at pscp.tv/StaabAlex (NJCAA broadcasting rights will not allow us to show video of the game).

To view the game, fans may purchase a subscription to watch on NJCAA TV. Go to NJCAATV.com, scroll down until you see ICC vs. Monroe, click it, hit purchase access, enter an email & password for an account, and sign in. Options should automatically pop up. To view the single game of ICC vs. Monroe, the cost is $4.99. To get an NJCAA DII women’s basketball championship pass for all tourney games, the cost is $12.99.

Alex will post updates on his twitter (@StaabAlex) during full time-outs and quarterly. Fans can also check out Alex’s photos from practices and coach interviews at ICCHarbinger.com.

For more information on this year’s tourney, head to http://www.northark.edu/campus-life/athletics/NJCAA-Tournament/index.

Other results from Tuesday: