BY CHAD DARE firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — MATTOON — Size and depth are two very important elements to a good basketball team.
The Parkland College women’s basketball team had the advantage in both of those areas in Saturday’s NJCAA Division II Region 24 Tournament semifinal contest against Danville Area Community College.
In the final 10 minutes, the Cobras outscored the Jaguars 23-12 to pull out a 86-75 victory in a game played at Lake Land College.
“We were really fatigued,’’ Danville Area Community College coach Kyle Bent said. “In that last stretch, we tried switching defenses and we tried to d a couple of things on offense.
“We just didn’t have enough left in our tank. I thought we fought pretty well, but it just wasn’t enough.’’
The Jaguars, who cap their season at 21-10, the third straight 20-win season for the program, scored 43 first-half points and trailed 46-43 as they were 7-of-19 from the 3-point range.
In the second half, DACC’s shooting dropped from 40 percent to 35.5 and the Jaguars were just 4-of-13 from 3-point range. Sophomore Kayton Cole and Kamaren Cole combined for 28 points and eight 3-pointers for the Jaguars. Kayton Cole finished with a double-double as she had 16 points and a game-high 13 assists.
“Those 3s kept us in the game in the first half,’’ Bent said. “In the second half, Parkland just kept beating us inside. We tried to double down a little bit, but we were just allowing them to get easy position too early in the sets.’’
Parkland’s Hannah Wascher finished with a game-high 22 points to go along with a game-high 13 rebounds. She had 20 of her points in the first half, but in the final 20 minutes, it was a combination of Cobra players that were able to get into the lane and score against the Jaguars.
“Once they cut across our faces, they were just able to back us down,’’ Bent said. “We just weren’t clicking defensively, and it was a struggle for all 40 minutes for us.
“At halftime, we made an adjustment and I challenged our big kids a little bit. We did better against Wascher, but it was too little, too late.’’
It’s the second straight year for the Jaguars to reach the NJCAA Division II Region 24 semifinals. A year ago, they lost a heartbreaking game to Illinois Central College.
“It’s great to get here against, but I would like to win one of these semifinal games and play for the title,’’ Bent said. “I’m really pleased with our effort, especially with Megan (Hiner) going down here late in the season.
“Our kids continued to play hard and they were able to win a share of the conference title. Now, we just need to take the next step as a program in the Region Tournament.’’
Hiner, who injured her knee against Parkland, started in 22 of 23 games at the time of her injury and she was averaging 8.3 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game for the Jaguars. She wasn’t on the bench Saturday as she had successful surgery on Friday.
Not only does Bent lose Hiner, but he also loses the dynamic duo of Kayton Cole and Kamaren Cole. The sisters, separate by a year in age, not helped the Jaguars to a share of the Mid-West Athletic Conference title this season, but they have had big roles during DACC’s three straight 20-win seasons.
“Unless Southern Indiana has another pair of sisters, I don’t know if we will be able to replace them,’’ Bent said of the duo from New Albany, Ind. “They have a unique athleticism and a unique skill set. I give a lot of credit to Kayton (a redshirt sophomore). She came to us after we were 3-26 and she took a leap of faith on me and the program. She has been a integral part of our success.’’
The other five players that played on Saturday for DACC are all freshman. Forward Brianna Jones had 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Jaguars, while Kelsie Ratliff had 13 points, including three 3-pointers. The others are Caelen Jones (4 points), Sierra Honeycutt (6 points) and Destiny Parker (5 points).
“We’re recruiting guards pretty heavily,’’ Bent said. “We have a number of really good players that are interested in our program. The recruiting season will really pick up here in the next three weeks.’’
In the other semifinal, fourth-seeded Lake Land College overcame a 13-point deficit to beat top-seeded and No. 3-rated Illinois Central 64-60.
Former Bismarck-Henning standout Emily Weinard was scoreless for the Lakers, who are coached by Dave Johnson, the brother of Bismarck-Henning volleyball and girls track coach Susan Kentner.
The championship game between Parkland (22-9) and Lake Land (22-9) is at 2 p.m. today.