This is it!
Championship Saturday has arrived.
The No. 20 Lady Cards (31-5) will play in their 14th NJCAA championship game and seventh in the last eight years Saturday when they take on No. 11 Tallahassee Community College (28-6). Game time at the Rip Griffin Center on the campus of Lubbock Christian University is 7 p.m.
The opportunity to win the college’s ninth national championship required a comeback for the ages in the semifinals against No. 1 seed and unbeaten Shelton State. With just over five minutes left in third quarter, the Lady Cards were down 16, 45-29. It appeared as though Shelton State was about to exorcise the demon of having lost to the Lady Cards in the semifinals the past two years.
Not so quick.
The Lady Cards continued to battle and chip away at the lead. They got it down to seven by the end of the quarter and finally pulled even at 54-54 with 1:31 left in regulation when Arleighshya McElroy drained a three-pointer, capping a 9-0 run in the final 3:33.
In overtime, the Lady Cards quickly went up by four, 58-54, only to see Shelton State respond with a pair of three-pointers, which were sandwiched around a Mercedes Brooks trey for the Lady Cards. Shelton State pulled even at 63-63 with 1:06 to go on a rainbow three-pointer by Cierra Johnson, who has signed with Alabama and had 28 points in the game.
Johnson appeared to have the Lady Cards in harm’s way with just under 10 seconds when she had the ball in her hands and was attempting to make a move from the free throw line. Instead, she was called for a travel, giving the Lady Cards the ball with six seconds left.
That meant it was Miller time, as in 5-8 sophomore Michal Miller. The Lady Cards quickly got the ball in her hands and sent her on her way to a legendary running eight-foot jumper with 00:00.4 left on the clock. Well, the buzzer sounded, but upon further review, that much time was put back on the clock.
Shelton State, which had won 36 straight games coming into the game, was able to get off a three-pointer from deep in the left corner, but it was way off the mark. The Lady Card celebration began.
McElroy led the Lady Cards with 18 points. Brooks had 15 and Miller 13. Tyasia Moore, who Shelton State coach Madonna Thompson said “switched the game” and was “a problem to defend,” had eight points and 11 rebounds.
The Lady Cards’ title game opponent had some fourth-quarter magic of its own. Tallahassee, which had lost to Gulf Coast three times during conference play, flipped the switch and closed the game in furious fashion in taking down the two-time defending national champion Lady Commodores, 78-68.
The Tallahassee win prevented a TVCC-Gulf Coast title game showdown for a third straight year. It also meant the Lady Cards will remain the only team in the 43-year history of the tournament to have won three straight titles.
The Lady Cards are now 70-19 in national tournament games, meaning tonight’s game will be their 90th at the event in 23 appearances.
The win over Shelton State ran the Lady Cards’ national semifinal record to 14-1.
Here are the colleges with multiple national titles:
- TVCC – 8
- Gulf Coast – 5
- Central Arizona – 4
- Odessa – 3
- Kilgore – 3
- Panola – 2
- Louisburg – 2
Here are the colleges with the most national title game appearances:
- TVCC – 14
- Central Arizona – 8
- Gulf Coast – 6
- Odessa – 5
- Louisburg – 4
- Hutchinson – 3
Gerald Ewing is now 13-3 in national tournament appearance as head coach. He was 8-0 as an assistant coach in the 2013 and 2014 seasons.
Saturday’s title game appearance will mark the first time the Lady Cards have ever played five games in the tournament. They are currently 4-0.
You can watch tonight’s title game online at www.njcaatv.com. A $4.99 subscription fee is required.
It’s 51 in Lubbock this morning, heading for a high of 84. Though we are expected to see the sun in the afternoon, there’s a 40 percent chance of showers tonight.
OK, Lady Card fans we have done this before. Wear your red today and send positive thoughts and vibes out this way as the Lady Cards go for title No. 9.