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Gulf Coast opens national tourney with easy win

LUBBOCK, Tex. — Gulf Coast had to wait an extra day to play its first game at the NJCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship tournament due to a change in schedule.

By the time the No. 2 seed Lady Commodores actually got to the court at the Rip Griffin Center for Wednesday’s first round matchup against No. 15 Walters State, they were more than ready to finally start playing basketball.

That showed with an excellent performance by the Panhandle Conference champions, who easily dispatched of the Senators 65-51. With the victory, Gulf Coast moves on to Thursday’s quarterfinal round against South Plains (Tex.), which routed Seward County 87-61 on Wednesday.

“I thought it was a good first game,” Gulf Coast coach Roonie Scovel said. “The first game is always tough. (Walters State) played the other day and had a day off, so maybe they were a little more comfortable. But we handled the first game really well. We shot it well and executed offensively, the running game was good for the first three quarters. We were just trying to hang on in that fourth quarter and save some energy, but I thought it was a good win.”

Brittany Davis led Gulf Coast with 14 points, while Alexus Dye added 13 points and 11 rebounds, and Lya Farcy scored 11 points. Diamond Forrest was the top scorer for the Senators with 14 points.

The Lady Commodores took the lead for good on an offensive rebound and putback by Alexus Dye to make it 12-11 with 2:40 left in the first quarter, with that bucket spurring an 11-0 run capped by a basket by Dominique Banks on a feed from Farcy to put Gulf Coast up 10.

Eleven first-half turnovers by Gulf Coast allowed Walters State to stay close and keep it within single digits at 36-28 at the halftime break.

The Lady Commodores took command in the third quarter, with Astou Gaye starting it off with a 3-pointer and then a lob pass to Dye for a layup. A short jumper by Farcy, a reverse layup by Diéné Diané, and a driving lefty finish at the rim by Farcy pushed the lead to 47-32 with 4:52 left in the third.

Another driving basket by Diané gave Gulf Coast its largest lead of the game at 19 late in the third, and the Senators didn’t get closer than 11 points the rest of the way.

Outside of the turnovers, the Lady Commodores’ execution was nearly flawless for most of the day, shooting just under 60 percent from the field through three quarters, outrebounding the Senators 58-39 for the game, and limiting them to 34 percent shooting from the field.

“We executed well, our running game was good, and we probably score 10-12 more points if not for the turnovers,” Scovel said. “We looked good early, did some nice stuff, adjusted, and made some changes on their post player (Dulcy Fankam Mendjiadeu).

″(Dominique Banks) was kind of the difference in the game. She took (Fankam Mendjiadeu) kind of out of the game. She took two or three charges, had two or three blocks, Dom just played outstanding.”

With another win Thursday, Gulf Coast will advance to Friday’s semifinal round, with the championship set for Saturday. The change in schedule moving the Lady Commodores’ first round game from Tuesday to Wednesday means that if they make a run to the final it would require them to play four games in four days.

Scovel, however, said that was very far from her primary concern at the moment.

“You can’t look at that, can’t think that way,” she said. “We play a very good South Plains team that’s at home, just 15 miles down the road. They’ll have a home crowd, so we can’t worry about four games because the next one could be our last. We just have to think about this next one.”

WALTERS STATE (51)

Jackson 0 0-0 0, Manning 1 1-4 4, Dixon 3 0-0 6, Fankam Mendjiadeu 2 3-4 7, Rogers 2 1-2 7, Trice 2 0-0 6, Esmon 3 0-0 7, Wareham 0 0-0 0, Jones 0 0-0 0, Forrest 6 1-2 14. Totals: 19 6-12 51.

GULF COAST (65)

Dye 6 1-2 13, Kincey 1 0-0 2, Davis 4 4-4 14, Mbandu 0 0-0 0, Gaye 1 0-0 3, Farcy 5 1-2 11, Marshall 3 3-4 9, Diané 3 1-2 7, Banks 3 0-0 6. Totals: 26 10-14 65.

Walters State 11 17 9 14 — 51

Gulf Coast 16 20 17 12 — 65

3-point field goals: Walters State 7 (Rogers 2, Trice 2, Manning, Esmon, Forrest), Gulf Coast 3 (Davis 2, Gaye). Total fouls: Walters State 11, Gulf Coast 9. Fouled out: none. Technical fouls: none.

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