The Cinderella season came to an end Wednesday for the Crowder Lady ‘Riders as they fell to No. 2 Central Arizona, 82-57, in the second round (Sweet 16) of the NJCAA National Championship Tournament at the Salina Bicentennial Center.
The Lady Vaqueras (30-1) posed issues for the Lady ‘Riders (29-6) with their length, as they fielded five players who measured at least 6’1, compared to Crowder’s tallest player, Terai Sadler, who stands in at 5’11. That made it difficult for the Lady ‘Riders to do damage inside the paint, and helped the Lady Vaqueras build a 45-27 halftime lead.
“We faced a very good opponent,” Crowder coach Tina Robbins said. “They were very long and athletic, and it was difficult to get a shot off in the paint because of their size. We really struggled on the offensive end in the first half, but I thought the girls came out and did a much better job in the second half.”
True to their character, the Lady ‘Riders always believed they were in it. They cut the deficit to 13 points in the second half but would get no closer. That didn’t sway their effort, however.
“I was really proud of our kids,” Robbins said. “They really played hard for 40 minutes, and they gave their best effort and played their hearts out.”
Central Arizona’s Brea Edwards, a 5’10 sophomore from Midland, Tex., poured in 26 points to lead the Lady Vaqueras, while adding eight rebounds and four assists. Teammate Ijeoma Uchendu, a 6’1 sophomore from Surulere, Lagos, followed with 21 points and six boards. Joymesia Howard, a 6’2 freshman from St. Louis, had 12 points, 11 boards and five assists.
After shooting 29-percent in the first half, the Lady ‘Riders were much more efficient in the second half shooting 44-percent. Sadler teamed with freshman Seleena Neal to lead the team with 13 points apiece, while Caprese Marshall tossed in 10. Veronica Amos pitched in nine points, 10 boards and five steals. Camila Lacerda had nine points, six boards and five assists. Dorian Briggs tallied two points while Megan Ritter added one.
Before the season began the Lady ‘Riders set a team goal to hang a banner in Bob Sneller Gymnasium. They accomplished that, then made it to the Sweet 16 and made some noise in the tournament. In short, they deemed the season a success.
“Obviously, going into the season we had high expectations for ourselves,” Robbins said. “But the way the kids handled themselves probably exceeded our expectations. You never could count them out. Our kids still believed they could come back and win (on Wednesday). Our fans were tremendous, and they got behind us and were still in it in the second half, still believed we could come back and win.
Page 2 of 2 - “This team set a precedence for the groups that follow them in the years to come.”