Lady Bobcats end season with national tournament play
The Lady Bobcats played the Coahoma Lady Tigers April 9, capturing their fifth straight region title and cinching their spot to play in the national tournament, where the ladies fell to Western Nebraska.
The ladies were named top seed in the NJCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship.
On March 31, the Lady Bobcats began their quest to become national champions in their first-round match up against the Mississippi Delta Lady Trojans. The Lady Bobcats dominated the Lady Trojans on the glass and forced turnovers, which led to second-chance baskets and easy transition buckets.
The Lady Bobcats had 26 offensive rebounds with 17-second-chance points compared to the Lady Trojans’ 14 offensive rebounds and 11-second-chance points. They also cleaned the glass on the defensive end to close out their defensive possessions, finishing with 30 defensive rebounds on the night. Offensively most of their points came in the post with them scoring 54 points in the paint.
That was a key factor in their victory, especially with some of their best offensive players having an off-night shooting from the field. The Lady Bobcats won 86 – 55. The leading scorer for the ladies was Daisha Bradford with 21 points, 6 rebounds, 5 steals, and 2 assists.
Out of the team’s last five games, their margin of victory has been below 20 points once and that was against nationally-ranked Shelton State. Compared to their margin of victory at the beginning of the season, the Lady Bobcats have made a massive leap to return to their prime form seen from Head Coach Missy Bilderback’s teams of the past.
“I think that early in the year we were still growing as a team and trying to figure things out. Now we are further in the season and have better chemistry with each other,” said Bilderback.
The Lady Bobcats were ranked as the number one women’s team in the nation, and the team was well aware of the pressure and expectations on them.
“We do feel pressure being #1 because so much is required and expected of us. We approach each day knowing that everyone wants to see the #1 team go down and fail. That fuels us,” said sophomore forward Endia Holiday.
Bobcats Fall Short in Nail Bitter Against Rangers
On April 1, the men’s titles’ hopes were crushed in a 70-72 loss to the Northwest Rangers in the first round of the Region 23 tournament.
They fell into an early deficit, allowing the Rangers to get high percentage shots off the low post mismatches. Their overall percentage from the field was slightly below 50%, shooting 46.7% from the field. The Rangers were also able to produce 15 points from 3-point range shooting from a 41.7% clip. Overall, the Bobcats’ field goal percentage was 10% worse, with them shooting 37.8% from the field.
Their 3-point percentage was low, with the Bobcats shooting only 9.1% from the three. At halftime, the Rangers led 36 – 29. The Bobcats came out singing a different tune at the beginning of the second half, playing better on defense, getting stops and rebounding. On the offensive end, the Bobcats began to get production out of their half-court offense, which helped them get an 11-point lead midway into the second half. However, the turning point in the game for the Bobcats was when their sophomore guard Tradavis Thompson fell and hit the floor between the seven- and four-minute mark.
After that happened, the Bobcats had multiple possessions where they had nothing but turnovers, leading to easy baskets in the Rangers’ transitions. The Rangers captured the lead but gave the Bobcats numerous chances to retake the lead during the last two minutes. The last opportunity came after the Bobcats defense forced a turnover with only a few seconds left. Thompson had a wide-open look from three on the wing off an out-of-bounds play but missed off the back rim.
“We thought it was good. I think we all expected it to go in, and we all know that Pooh [Thompson] can easily make those type of shots. It just didn’t bounce our way, and we can’t fault him for that,” sophomore forward John Rawls said.
The demise of the Bobcats was somewhat preeminent based on their play in their previous game against Hinds. The way they lost to Hinds was identical to all their losses at the beginning of the season. The primary reason for their loss was lack of execution offensively and defensively and carelessness with the ball. Assistant coach Kelvin Nixon spoke about the team’s performance in their last two games.
“We had a sudden relapse late in our game against Hinds and fell back into our old ways. We got a double-digit lead and gave it away with our lack of execution late in the game. The silver lining in all of this is that this is a good learning experience, and our returning freshmen will be able to learn from this experience,” Nixon said.
Thompson was the Bobcats leading scorer finishing with 16 points, 5 steals, and 6 assists. They finished 6-6 overall on the season and 6-5 in conference play.
by Johnathan Richardson