SALINA, Kan. – When the Blinn women’s basketball team began its season Nov. 1, the team’s focus was far from a return trip to Kansas and a bid to the NJCAA national tournament.
Now 32 games and four months later, the Buccaneers find themselves back on the national stage for the second straight year. Blinn was awarded an at-large bid by the NJCAA to earn the program’s third trip to the national tournament in its 36-year history.
“It’s exciting. This is my 15th year and it took so long to get here the first time, I feel very grateful to be back a second time,” Blinn (26-6) coach Jeff Jenkins said, who’s coaching in his second national tournament.
The 13th-seeded Bucs open tournament play Monday at 2 p.m. against Baton Rouge Community College, the tournament’s 20th seed out of Louisiana. The game will be broadcast live on NJCAA TV or by visiting www.buccaneersports.com.
Baton Rouge (24-6) won the Region 23 championship, the first in team history, to qualify for the national tournament. The Lady Bears are riding a five-game winning streak heading into Monday’s match-up, including a 68-57 victory over Southwest Mississippi in the Region 23 championship game.
“They come from a really good conference,” Jenkins said. “They have two really good players, but they have seven players that will make it tough on us.”
Sophomore Ashley Williams, a guard/forward who’s averaging 19.8 points and 5.3 rebounds, leads the Lady Bears offensively. Williams is complimented by sophomore guard Rosa Bryant, who dishes out 15.3 points and 10.4 rebounds per game.
Six of the 11 players on Baton Rouge’s roster average at least six points per game.
As for the Bucs, Blinn joins No. 1-ranked Trinity Valley Community College and Tyler Junior College as the three teams to qualify out of the Region XIV Conference. The Bucs earned the at-large bid after Trinity Valley and Tyler each earned automatic berths.
Blinn is led by sophomore forward Fatima Adams, a Bryan Rudder High School product and University of Houston commit. Adams is putting up 22.4 points and 11 rebounds per game, and is coming off a 33-point performance against Tyler in the Region XIV Tournament semifinals.
Jenkins and assistant coach Alexis Green regard Adams as the best junior college in the nation.
But the Bucs wouldn’t have made it back to the national tournament with Adams alone. The team’s depth—ranging from sophomore Katrina Hayden to freshman Alexus Freeman—can be regarded among the nation’s best, too.
Sophomore Amari Jones, who along with Tucker was on the national tournament team last season, gives the Bucs a strong rebounding presence along with Adams and Shunta Nevitt down low. Freshman guards Shakera Barnes and Alexus Freeman are threats off the bench, where Barnes is averaging 4.6 points and Freeman is averaging 6.4.
In the region tournament, Freeman dropped 10 points in the opener against Angelina and 14 points against Tyler.
“Considering we’ve had several injuries early in the season, we’ve overcome those and with our transfers who have worked their way in and freshmen who have proved themselves, we’ve come together really well,” Jenkins said.
The College has competed in intercollegiate athletics since 1903 and has captured 27 NJCAA national championships since 1987.
For more information on Blinn athletics, visit: www.buccaneersports.com.
NJCAA National Tournament Seeding
- Trinity Valley, 32-1
- Chipola (Fla.), 31-1
- Hutchinson (Kan.), 32-0
- Walters State (Tenn.), 32-0
- Central Arizona, 29-2
- Southern Idaho, 29-3
- Shelton State (Ala.), 30-3
- South Georgia Tech, 30-4
- Northwest Florida State, 24-6
- Butler (Kan.), 32-2
- Tyler, 28-5
- Salt Lake (Utah), 25-7
- Blinn, (26-6)
- Eastern Arizona, 23-8
- New Mexico, 25-5
- State Fair (Mo.), 21-8
- Western Nebraska, 30-4
- ASA (N.Y.), 18-3
- Northern Oklahoma-Enid, 20-11
- Baton Rouge (La.), 24-6
- Lake Region State (N.D.), 29-4
- Southwestern Illinois, 23-5
- Southwest Mississippi, 21-8
- Denmark Tech (S.C.), 17-2
(Story & photos courtesy: Matt Keyser, Blinn Information)