With an 84-76 loss in the opening round of the NCCAA Central Region Tournament, to the Grace University Royals, the season came to an end for the Central Christian College women's basketball team.
The Tigers started off slow against the Royals, falling behind in the opening quarter, 26-15. They did a better job on the defensive end of the floor in the second quarter, holding the Royals to 19 points in the period, but offensively they still lagged a little behind the Grace Ladies. Heading into the break, the Royals had extended their lead from 9 to 14, 45-30.
All season, the 3rd quarter of games has really been the Achilles heel for the Tigers offensively. Opponents have outscored the Tigers in the 3rd quarter 740 -442 throughout the year, but on this night that was not the case. The Tigers came out of the break on fire. They erupted for 31 points in the quarter and outscored the Royals by 11, to cut the deficit to 4, 65-61.
The Tigers to within 2 points, 65-63 after their first possession of the final quarter. The Royals responded with a big three pointer their next time down the floor, to push the lead back out to 5. The Tigers countered with basket on their next trip to cut get to within 3, just 33 seconds into the quarter. The crowd was in it, and the Tigers were feeding off it, but the Royals refused to fold under the pressure. With just over 4 minutes remaining, they had extended their lead back out to 9 points, 76-67.
Down the stretch, the Tigers found themselves trading baskets with the Royals. They found ways to score, but they struggled to get stops on the defensive end of the floor. As a result, they were unable to chip away at the lead, and their rally attempt ran out of time.
Over half of the Tiger points came from two players. Holly Golden and Abbie Banks led the Tigers offensively. Golden had another double double, with 25 points and 19 rebounds. Banks wasn't far behind, scoring 22 points, and dishing out 8 assists.
This was a story of one team playing hard for 40 minutes and another team only playing one solid half," said Central head coach Marc Golden. "Hats off to grace for playing their way into the tournament."
From a wins loss stand point, it was an extremely tough year for the Tiger women. They opened the season with a lot of excitement and with new expectations, but at different points in the season, they were forced to deal with a lot of adversity. They lost players to both injury and ineligibility, and to compound things, they were in their inaugural year in the Sooner Athletic Conference, one of, if not the toughest NAIA D1 conference in the nation.
Despite the disappointment of not winning more games, there are some positives to take away from this season. The team that finished tonight was better than the team that started the season. They played hard in every game, and throughout the season they continued to improve. Coach Golden said of next season, "Our focus next year will be on winning the battle in the paint and playing hard defense for 40 minutes every night." With no seniors on the team this year, there is a lot to look forward to in 2018-2019.