When the Blinn women’s basketball team was preparing for its season opener in November, coach Jeff Jenkins had a clear message for his team: it didn’t deserve its No. 6 ranking in the NJCAA preseason poll.
“We were just being honest with them,” Jenkins said. “They proved that with losses to Hill and Temple.”
After a 25-5 season and 15-3 Region XIV Conference record – the most conference wins in Jenkins’ 12 years with the team – and a second-place finish in the conference standings, the players have proven they are every bit as good as their current No. 12 ranking.
Third-seeded Blinn enters the Region XIV Conference Tournament at 8 tonight against sixth-seeded Angelina College with hopes of reaching its second straight national tournament. The game will be broadcast live online at www.tsrnsports.com. For live stats and updated brackets, click here.
“We can’t go in feeling cocky,” sophomore post Fatima Adams said. “We’re trying to focus on one game at a time right now.” To get back to the national stage, the Bucs must first get through an Angelina team they have defeated twice in a pair of close games this season.
Blinn held on for a 68-63 road victory after a second-half surge by the Lady Roadrunners, who trailed by 20 in the first half. At home in the Blinn P.E. Building, it was the Bucs who used the second half to pull away, 79-62, after holding a 37-32 halftime lead.
“They’ve proven twice that they’re capable of beating us,” Jenkins said. “They’re a very talented team. They’re athletic, big and they’ve got really good shooters.” Angelina and the rest of the conference will have to go through a Buccaneer squad that features arguably one the best junior college players in the country in Adams.
“It’s nice when you can push the ball like we do that we can sub as soon as we get tired and not lose anything,” Jenkins said. Where the Bucs have improved most this season is with the return of sophomore Amari Jones in January, who missed the first-half of the season with a torn meniscus.
A 5-foot-11 sophomore, Jones gives the Bucs an inside presence they lacked when she wasn’t on the court. In the past three games, she’s averaging nearly 13 rebounds per game to coincide with Adams’ production in the post.
On the outside, sophomores Shunta Nevitt and Tayler Weiks give Blinn a presence from the 3-point line to keep defenses from collapsing when its guards drive the lane. Nevitt and Weiks, both transfers, are shooting nearly 40 percent from 3-point land.
“Anybody is capable of playing or starting, and everyone is capable of making plays on our team,” sophomore guard Katrina Hayden said.
Guards Hayden and sophomore Tierra Tucker benefit from Nevitt and Weiks’ presence on the outside. Both are physical driving to the basket.
Hayden is averaging 10 points a game, while Tucker averages another nine. Added in with the production of freshman guards Alexus Freeman (6.4 ppg), Shakera Barnes (4.6 ppg) and Brianna Luton (4.2 ppg), Jenkins said this year’s team is as good—if not better—than the one that qualified for the national tournament last year. But like Adam’s said, “We can’t get cocky.” It is March Madness, after all. “Anything can happen,” Jones said.
For more information on Blinn women’s basketball, visit buccaneersports.com.