Lady Bears punch ticket to Region 23 semifinals with win over BRCC

Published 1:17 pm Wednesday, March 2, 2022

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Earlier in the season, the Lady Bears fell to Baton Rouge Community College on two separate occasions. However, on Tuesday night, the third time was the charm for SMCC.

The host Lady Bears went on a late run which included a big fourth quarter from sophomore Gabby Bunch before walking away with a 79-60 win over the visiting Lady Bears in the quarterfinal round of the NJCAA Region 23 Women’s Basketball Postseason Tournament.

“We were incredibly unselfish and we shot the ball well because we were unselfish,” SMCC head coach Brent Harris said. “And then we made plays out of 50-50 plays, making the play instead of turning it over.”

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For SMCC (18-8) the short-range game was working early. The hosts’ first 12 points all came via shots from inside the 3-point arch. The remaining three points in the first quarter came via free throws as SMCC pulled within two at 17-15.

Continued success from close range helped keep the hosts in the contest. At the 5:10 mark in the second quarter, Abbey Gallager connected on a 3-pointer, the first of the night for the host Lady Bears, making the score 24-23 in favor of SMCC.

Not long afterward, Lynn Griffin followed suit with one of her own. The increased success offensively gave SMCC a halftime lead but only slightly at 35-33.

In the third quarter, however, the hosts began to pull away. A ramped-up defense coupled with increased offensive intensity paid dividends for SMCC. Five different Lady Bears scored including Nia Hardison who led the charge with eight points, scoring in every facet. Her 3-pointer came following a pair of fast-break baskets which represented the moment swing SMCC needed.

Leading 53-44 after three, the hosts kept pouring it on. Bunch began to get into rhythm, nailing a 3-pointer early on in the period. Her offensive game just snowballed from there. The Laurel-native scored 15 of her game-high 21 points in the final 10 minutes of play helping SMCC pull away and seal the win.

After the game Bunch gave all of the credit to her team.

“With us playing team ball, it carried over,” she said. “It was a team effort. We just kept pushing and we didn’t let up.”

She added that making it to the semifinals is special for her because it is something that she has yet to experience as she plays in her third season in Junior College.

Next up for SMCC is a semifinal game against the top-ranked Pearl River Wildcats. Tipoff from Mississippi College in Clinton is set for Thursday. The time has yet to be announced.

NOTE: Tuesday’s win came just 24 hours removed from a milestone for Coach Harris as he recorded his 150th victory as head coach of the Lady Bears program following their win Monday over Meridian.