BLUEFIELD, VA- The Alice Lloyd College Lady Eagles traveled to Bluefield, Virginia over the weekend to participate in the NCCAA Mideast Regional Championship. The winner would receive an automatic berth in the NCCAA National Tournament which will begin on March 15 in Winona Lake, Indiana. The Lady Eagles won a thrilling semi-final match in overtime over Hiwassee before falling in the championship to the host Bluefield Lady Rams.
Mid-East Region Semi-Finals
In the semifinal round on Friday, March 3, ALC faced a solid 18-4 Hiwassee Tiger squad. The Tigers got off to a quick start as they jumped ahead 16-9 after one quarter of play.
In the second period, the stunned Lady Eagles could only watch as Hiwassee was absolutely on fire. HC shot 55.6% in the first half while ALC only hit 25% themselves. This torrid shooting permitted the Tigers to extend their lead to 25 points with just three minutes remaining before intermission. At the buzzer, the Lady Eagles found themselves behind 41-22 and appeared destined to a major defeat.
However, ALC Coach John Mills must have used a special prayer at the half, because the club that took the floor wearing the Eagle uniform for the final two quarters was the polar opposite of the one that played the first twenty minutes.
Backed by solid pressure defense, Alice Lloyd began chopping away at the deficit. Senior forward and leading scorer Amber Shepherd (who was scoreless in the opening half) suddenly caught fire as did junior guard Miranda Wilson. The ladies from Caney Creek outscored their foes 21-11 by quarters end, and the deficit had been reduced to nine (52-43).
In the last period, junior guard Kayla Wilson and sophomore forward India Hairston-James each made big plays as well to further fuel the comeback attempt. The lead shrank even more until miraculously, late in the contest, Alice Lloyd took their first lead of the night, 65-64. Unfortunately, the comeback seemed doomed when the Lady Tigers drilled two clutch buckets to regain the lead (68-65), and forced ALC into a timeout with just .09 showing.
After the timeout, the ball was swung to Shepherd, who coolly swished a deep 25-foot bomb with .04 glaring on the scoreboard. This hoop tied the score at 68, and sent the contest into overtime.
In overtime, the momentum was completely reversed as the Lady Eagles were determined to put away their rivals once and for all. They won the last period 19-8 to complete the incredible turn-around.
For the victors (12-14), Shepherd wound up as the contests leading scorer as she pumped in all 25 of her points in the last half and overtime; she sank 4-9 three-pointers. Miranda Wilson was just behind with 20 points while adding 4 assists and 5 big steals. Twin sister Kayla added 14 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 steals while Hairston –James added a double-double of 13 points and 11 boards. The Lady Eagles shot 37% (30-81) from the floor and 28.6% (10-35) from deep while sinking 73.9% (17-23) of their foul shots. They added 34 rebounds, 13 assists, and 16 huge steals.
Hiwassee (18-5) was led by Ny’Asia Holmes with 15 points. Her club cooled off considerably in the second half (32%) and finished 43.1% (25-58) for the game and 35% (7-20) from beyond the arc. They were also 54.3% (19-35 from the foul line and added 53 rebounds, 11 assists, and 6 steals. They did commit 32 turnovers which led to the comeback.
Mideast Region Finals
The host Bluefield Lady Rams earned the region’s automatic bid to the national tournament by defeating ALC 67-45 in the championship.
The host school came out of the gates strong and was determined not to let the Lady Eagles keep the contest too close. They vaulted ahead 20-10 after ten minutes of play
In quarter two, their sticky defense limited the visitors to just seven points, and when the buzzer sounded for intermission, ALC was trailing 35-17. The question people wondered was could the Lady Eagles mount another miracle run as they did the previous day.
Unfortunately, the Lady Rams saw first-hand the comeback potential Alice Lloyd possessed, so they came out determined to hold their advantage. It also appeared that the remarkable rally the Lady Eagles showed the previous day had unfortunately zapped their energy. Despite their spirited efforts, they simply did not have the strength to mount a major challenge.
For ALC (12-15), Amber Shepherd wound up her excellent career finishing as the contests leading scorer with 18 points. She added 4 boards. Kayla Wilson added 10 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 steals while India Hairston-James led in rebounding with 6. The Lady Eagles shot just 27.9% (17-61) from the floor and a frigid 8% (2-23) from deep while sinking 64.3% (9-14) of their foul shots. They added 29 rebounds, 3 assists, and 7 steals.
BC (17-14) was led by Whitney Smith with 12 points. Her club finished 42.9% (24-56) for the game and 44.4% (8-18) from beyond the arc. They were also 64.7% (11-17) from the foul line and added 43 rebounds, 15 assists, and 11 steals.