Central Arizona ends Buccaneers’ run at national tournament

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SALINA, Kansas -- Katrina Hayden and the Blinn women’s basketball team tried to spark a late comeback, but the deficit to Central Arizona was too much.

Fifth-ranked Central Arizona ended Blinn’s season 86-74 in the NJCAA Division I National Tournament Elite Eight.

“We just picked a bad night to play bad,” Blinn (28-7) coach Jeff Jenkins said. “We lost out on a good opportunity; we really had a good chance to make it to the Final Four.”

With 1:30 to play, Hayden hit a layup that cut Central Arizona’s lead to 10, 82-72. Twenty seconds later, Adams hit a bucket that cut it to eight, the closest the game had been since the opening minutes of the second half.

But the Vaqueros ran a delay offense that took 30 seconds off clock to hold on for the victory.

Blinn struggled offensively for much of the second half.

The team shot 36 percent from the field, went 0-for-11 from the 3-point line and turned the ball over 14 times.

For the game, Blinn shot 37 percent from the field.

“It was a bad night to shoot 2-for-22 from the 3-point line, to have 28 turnovers and shoot 60 percent free throws,” Jenkins said. “To beat a good team this late in the year, you can’t have those three things go wrong.

The Vaqueras, led by Tia Levi Dixon, turned the Blinn turnovers into 25 points, and quickly built its 40-35 halftime lead to a double-digit advantage. Central Arizona shot 45 percent for the game.

Dixon scored a game-high 28 points, including a 5 of 11 showing from the 3-point line. When Blinn began to find its offensive rhythm late in the second half, Dixon hit an open 3-pointer near the two-minute mark to deflate its run.

Fatima Adams scored a team-high 26 points for the Bucs and pulled down 12 rebounds. Hayden scored 19 points and Shunta Nevitt pulled down eight boards.

“I’m very proud of them,” Jenkins said. “I thought we played as hard as we could. I think we showed that we belong here. I think if we would have played our normal game it would have been close.”

The Bucs defeated Baton Rouge 82-75 in their tournament opener, then handed Walters State, the No. 2-ranked team in the nation, a 57-52 loss in the quarterfinals.

Blinn’s sophomore class finished 60-11 in its two years––that class includes Adams, Amari Jones, Shanequa Gaston, Danielle Espinoza and Tierra Tucker. The team advanced to two Elite Eights and won the program’s first games on the national stage in its 36-year history.

Central Arizona advances to play two-time back-to-back national champion Trinity Valley in the Final Four.

Blinn College has competed in intercollegiate athletics since 1903 and has captured 26 NJCAA national championships since 1987.

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