Lady Warriors sail through NEA Tournament for second consecutive championship

Wednesday, January 9, 2008
The Lady Warriors used this type of smothering defense to march through the NEA Tournament last month. Here Jordan Madden (3) and Laporscha Williams (10) close in from the right as Becca Williams (42) and Jocelyn Joplin (partially hidden) close off the lane to the left. (Tribune photo/Dan Brawner)

Tribune Sports Staff

By the end of the 2007 NEA Tournament at the convocation center, EPC had outscored their three opponents by a total of 70 points, 179-109, and had won their second tournament championship in as many years.

The run began with an easy win over a weak Harrisburg team, continued with a victory over a respectable Hoxie squad and ended with a championship performance against a dangerous Cave City group.

EPC 51, Harrisburg 24

"We played terrible," said coach Bobby Lewallen of Lady Warriors opening round, 51-24, win over the Lady Hornets Saturday, Dec. 22. "A lot of it had to do with playing at 9 p.m. and playing on what is probably the worst court and shooting area in the state."

Lewallen was referring to the fact that lady's teams play on the upper rubber-surfaced courts at the Convocation Center until the finals when the teams take the main floor.

It was truly a case of the Lady Warriors going through the motions, but still being good enough even without any emotion to blow out their fellow Poinsett Countiens. Top seeded EPC took the first quarter 15-6, then while holding the eighth seed Lady Hornets to only two points in the second period, could only manage nine for their own for a 24-8 halftime lead.

The second half was much of the same although Harrisburg did make some noise in the third quarter scoring nine to EPC's 11.

"I'm just glad we got out of there without anyone getting hurt," continued Lewallen.

Jordan Madden led the Lady Warriors with a double-double scoring 19 points and gathering in 12 rebounds even though she played less than three full quarters. Laporscha Williams added nine points while Katelyn Armstrong had six, Becca Ross five, Carla Kemp four, Jocelyn Joplin and Madison McCorkle three, and Kelli Saddler two.

The game was the last one of the week as the tournament and the remaining teams took a break for Christmas.

EPC 64, Hoxie 46

Two days after Christmas on Thursday, Dec. 27, the Lady Warriors took the court and experienced something they seldom have, being on the short end of the score. Of course the deficit occurred in the first 2:00 of the game when the Lady Mustangs went up 5-4 and was quickly rectified to the tune of a 64-46 final tally.

Before the tournament started, Lewallen lamented the fact that most of the teams the Lady Warriors might play in the NEA were conference opponents of EPC and that it was "just another chance for them to get a good look at us."

Hoxie, in particular, seemed to benefit from the additional playing time against Lewallen's charges.

"They play us better every time we see them," he said. "They're good from outside and from the post. So we knew it would be a tough game."

Playing on the main floor of the Convocation Center, Kemp quickly put the matter right when she hit EPC's first 3-pointer giving her team a 7-5 lead. The trey began a 12-3 run which didn't end until he quarter did. By the buzzer, EPC had taken a commanding 16-8 lead.

The first four minutes of the second quarter were nothing to brag about for either team as only Madden scored with a field goal and a charity shot while the Lady Mustangs responded with the same.

Ross finally broke the scoring drought when she dropped in two from her post position, drew the foul and sank the extra shot for a 22-11 EPC lead.

The last half of the quarter didn't produce many points, either, but EPC did manage to increase their lead by one additional point, 29-17, at the break.

The second half opened with Hoxie making a short 6-1 run to close within seven, 30-23. The Lady Warriors responded with a 7-2 run of their own to make things right again, 37-25.

The remainder of the third period saw Madden hit two more treys as well as make an old fashioned 3-point play, which along with a pair of Cara Pilgrim free throws, put EPC further on top, 48-32.

The final period was basically a case of just keeping the Lady Mustangs at bay while scoring enough points to maintain the lead. The Lady Warriors did this in workman like fashion scoring 16 points to Hoxie's 14.

Madden led the Lady Warriors with 29 followed by Ross who had a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Williams scored 11 while Kemp had five, Joplin four, Pilgrim two and Armstrong one.

Megan Black led Hoxie with 18 while Erica Galbreath finished with 11.

"We did a good job with our 'man' defense," Lewallen concluded about the game. "We picked up the pace at the end and got our hands on the ball some and got some turnovers. We probably got six turnovers in a row on their end of the court and stretched the lead out at the end. The final score was a lot worse than the game really was."

The win put EPC into the title game against Cave City who had defeated Manila earlier in the day.

EPC 64, Cave City 39

Against Manila two days before on Thursday Cave City's Jordan Witt had been on fire scoring four 3-pointers on the way to a team high 17 points in the Cavewomen's 46-43 win over the Lady Lions. Knowing this, Witt became the focus of the Lady Warriors and especially Madden in the EPC defensive game plan.

"They are a solid team," said Lewallen. "They shoot the 3-pointer really well, probably better than any team we play. Because of that, we couldn't play a 1-3-1 against them. We matched our Jordan (Madden) with their Jordan (Witt) and our Jordan won. She did excellent."

Time and again Witt seemed to be open and ready to attempt a long range shot only to have Madden jump into view and cause her to pass off or hesitate. Madden and her teammates were so successful that Witt was held scoreless until just two minutes remained in the first half. Appropriately she hit a 3-pointer to close the score to 22-17 at that point.

Like against Hoxie, the Lady Warriors fell behind early, 4-0. EPC came back to tie the game on field goals by Madden and Joplin then went up 7-4 on a Williams 3-pointer.

By the 1:50 mark of the first period, the Cavewomen had pulled back to tie the game 11-all. But, when Madden got a steal, one of five she would have on the day, and drew a shooting foul, she put EPC up for good when both charity shots dropped in.

Pilgrim added another field goal and the Lady Warriors entered the second period up 15-11.

The second period opened with Kemp grabbing a rebound and dishing off to Madden who dropped it in from outside the circle. The Cavewomen responded with a field goal for an 18-13 score. Williams then went on a seven point run to close out the half, the final three points coming in response to Witt's trey.

The third period turned into something of a 3-point contest for both teams as the defenses worked to keep either opponent from finding shooting lanes. Of the Lady Warriors' 16 third-quarter points, 12 came from long range while all but three of Cave City's three came in like manner.

The result was that EPC entered the final period sporting a relatively comfortable, 41-29 lead. Then by the 6:00 mark, the Lady Warriors had pushed the score up to 45-29 and the Cavewomen began shooting three pointers in desperation, hitting only two.

Midway through the period Madden sandwiched three field goals around a pair of Ross 2-pointers to give EPC a solid 55-37 lead with 2:00 left in the game.

The game ended with Saddler sinking her only two points of the night for the 65-39 final.

Madden led the scoring with 29 followed by Williams with 17. Ross and Joplin finished with seven each while Pilgrim matched Saddler with two.

Even held down for most of the game Witt led the Cavewomen with 14 followed by Cheyenne Childers with 12.

"Jocelyn had a great defensive game," concluded Lewallen. She was always on the boards and always does a lot of little things. Becca had a really good tournament and got in double figures the first two games.

"It was great to repeat as champions. It was a good feeling to get on the main floor and do that. I was very proud of Jordan, Laporscha and Becca for making the all-tournament team.

"The one thing we didn't do well was free throw shooting. We were only 38% and we'll have to improve on that to get out of the regionals at the end of the year."

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