Buccaneers advance to Elite Eight, 79-72

SALINA, Kan. – The Blinn Buccaneers are about to get their final shot at the Trinity Valley Lady Cardinals.

The ninth-seeded Buccaneers defeated eighth-seeded Darton (Ga.) State College 79-72 in the second round of the NJCAA Women's Basketball Championships at the Bicentennial Center here Tuesday. The Bucs now advance to face Trinity Valley, the No. 1 seed and the defending national champion, in the tournament quarterfinals at 1 p.m. Thursday.

"I think they're finally excited," Blinn coach Jeff Jenkins said. "I think they're finally realizing they're making history here.

"Who would have ever thought at the beginning of the season that we would be in the Elite Eight?"

Blinn and Trinity Valley have already met three times this season, with the Lady Cardinals (33-1) coming out on top all three times, including one overtime victory. Trinity Valley defeated Blinn 89-72 in Brenham on Jan. 9, but Blinn pushed the defending champs to the limit in both teams' regular-season finale, a 94-88 Trinity Valley victory on the Lady Cards' home floor. Trinity Valley was triumphant again in the Region XIV Conference championship game.

But now the Buccaneers (32-3) will get a final shot at upending the No. 1-ranked team in the nation thanks to 23 points from guard Jazzmin Parker. The sophomore from Mayde Creek High School shot 10-of-16 from the floor.

"She was amazing," Jenkins said. "She was solid defensively, she played with energy for all of her 28 minutes and this was by far her best game this season."

Sophomore forward Audrisa Harrison scored 15 points and grabbed a team-high nine rebounds, and freshman forward Fatima Adams scored 14. Freshman guard Tierra Tucker scored nine points off the bench on 4-of-5 shooting, and freshman Danielle Espinoza grabbed seven rebounds.

"Our depth really helped tonight," Jenkins said. "We weren't as tired as they were at the end."

Blinn led 42-36 at halftime.

Jasmine Wilson led Darton State with 19 points while Michelle Mitchell scored 18. The Lady Cavaliers finish the season with a 30-4 record.

After the game, Jenkins pointed out to his ballclub that Texas A&M University had scouts in the stands, and he reminded them that when Texas A&M won the NCAA women's national championship in 2011, they defeated a Baylor University team in the Elite Eight that had already defeated them three times.

"It could happen again," Jenkins said. "Why not?"