Lady Aggies clinch NJCAA Region II Championship, qualify for National Tournament
March 09, 2020
The Murray State College Women’s Basketball Team entered the first round of the NJCAA Division II Tournament at Oklahoma Baptist University with 18 wins and 12 losses and nine-and-seven in regional play. After a slow start to the season, the Lady Aggies dominated the region after mid January, winning 10 straight games before dropping their final three. The surge in wins came in part from the team’s phenomenal play behind the three-point line. At the end of the regular season, freshman Alaijah Stewart led the conference in three-point baskets with 113 and was second in the total number of points scored with 490. Freshman Jillian Ingram led the conference in three-point shot percentage making 42.9% from behind the three-point line, followed closely by freshman Macy Smith who ranked second in the region with 41.3% and Stewart shooting 40.4% to rank fourth.
In the first round of the Region II Tournament on March 4, the Aggies faced a tough Western Oklahoma State College team they defeated once and lost to once during the regular season, with each team winning on their home courts. The Aggies quickly jumped out to an early lead on a barrage of three-point baskets from Stewart who scored 12 of the Aggies first 16 points, but the Pioneers rallied to only trail by one point going into the second quarter. Murray State dominated the last 15 minutes of the half, outscoring Western by 13 points to lead 44-30 at halftime. The Aggies increased their lead in the third quarter before the Pioneers came fighting back to make the game close late. In the final minutes, Murray State was able to hold on to secure a 86-to-79 victory. Stewart led the Aggies in scoring with 19 points, followed by Ingram and sophomore Randaysha Hansen with 15 points each and sophomore Kes Reeves with 14 points. The win set up a March 6 semifinal game versus regular season champion Redlands Community College.
In their game versus Redlands, the Aggies fell behind early, but were able to slow the Cougars’ momentum to head into halftime trailing 34-25. Murray State dominated the third quarter, holding Redlands to just eight points while the Aggie offense caught fire and put 26 points on the scoreboard in the first 15 minutes of the second half. The Cougars mounted a comeback in the final eight minutes of the game, but the Aggies were able to hold on to win 67-60 and advance to the Region II Championship final. Stewart led the Aggies in scoring with 23 points, including five from behind the three-point line and freshman Madison Roberson scored 12 points and had seven rebounds. The win advanced the Aggies to a championship match up versus Northern Oklahoma College-Enid, the second time the two teams have faced each other in less than two weeks. The last time the two teams met, the Jets utilized a late surge of offense in the final eight minutes of the game to defeat the Aggies 70-64 at home.
In the tournament championship, Murray State quickly took charge of the game and built momentum to take a three point lead in the first 15 minutes of play and then expanded their advantage further to lead 43-36 at halftime. The Aggies continued to dominate both ends of the court in the second half thanks in part to continued success behind the three-point line. Both Ingram and Stewart made eight three pointers in the game to help propel the Aggies to an 86-69 victory and earn them their first ever Region II Tournament Championship title. Stewart had 24 points in the game followed by Ingram with 23 points and sophomore Randaysha Hansen added 15 points to secure Murray State an automatic bid in the National Tournament.The NJCAA Division I Women’s National Tournament will be held March 17-21, 2020 at the Rip Griffin Center in Lubbock, Texas. During the nationally-televised NJCAA Division I Tournament Selection Show on Monday, March 9, the Aggies were selected as the #23 Seed overall and will take on #10 seed Florida Southwestern State College at 4:15 p.m. on Tuesday March 17, 2020.