By David Wheeler/Special to the NEMS Daily Journal
Itawamba Community College women’s coach Nanci Gray has enjoyed her share of success in state tournaments at the junior college and high school level.
Today is a whole other world for the Lady Indians.
By winning the Region 23 championship March 2, the Lady Indians earned their way to the National Junior College Athletic Association tournament, and tip off in that event today against fifth-ranked Northwest Florida State at noon.
“The girls were dedicated to this,” said Gray, who has won two state titles at ICC, and coached the Lady Indians in two regional finals. “They played well together in the region tournament, and wanted to get this done.”
ICC (19-9) got it done in the region, beginning with a 70-51 victory over Northwest Feb. 28, after the Lady Rangers had defeated the Lady Indians twice during the regular season. They downed Copiah-Lincoln 62-56, and with two free throws by Belmont’s Leslie Robinson, edged Baton Rouge 58-57 in the title game.
‘really good defense’
“We played really good defense, and stayed focused that week,” Gray said. “The sophomores led us, and we were able to get three solid victories.”
Now the task is Northwest Florida (24-4) at the Salina Bicentennial Center in Salina, Kan.
“They have a strong resume, and feature three international players,” Gray said of Northwest. “They were a preseason No. 1 in the nation, are long and lean, and like to score in transition.”
Ty-Nita Baker of Houston leads the Lady Indians in scoring (17.7).
This is Itawamba’s first trip to the national tourney since 1975.
Today’s winner will face Walters State of Tennessee (29-1) on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
For the first time, it’s a single-elimination tournament.