RICHFIELD—“The magic ran out.”
That was how Snow College women’s basketball coach Mike Russell described his team’s 83-57 loss to College of Southern Idaho in the National Junior College Athletic Association Region 18 women’s basketball tournament championship.
You could say that the Lady Badgers’ run was indeed magical. Already down Reagan Anderson and Samiana Suguturaga due to COVID-19 protocols, Snow smashed Colorado Northwestern Community College 84-60 Thursday in the first round of the tournament.
Then the Lady Badgers lost their two leading scorers in Japrix Weaver and Sarah Lange to a torn ACL and an ankle sprain, respectively, in the first 12 minutes of their semifinal game against Salt Lake Community College.
But that didn’t deter Snow against the Bruins. Ashlee Edwards and Kennedy Eskelson scored 21 and 20 points, respectively, in the Lady Badgers’ 65-59 win over SLCC, Snow’s third win this season over the Bruins in four games.
“Whether we won or lost, I would have been equally as proud [given] the effort and grit and how they played,” Russell said.
While Weaver and Lange “get a lot of attention and accolades,” Edwards and Eskelson are “equally as talented,” Russell said.
He then noted that the team had players play that don’t usually play a lot of minutes.
“Those two stepped up, but really, everybody did,” Russell said. “They played for each other. When they went down, rather than be like ‘oh, we lost our two leading scorers,’ it was ‘we gotta dig deep’ and that’s what they did.”
Lange was visibly upset that she couldn’t play.
Against CNCC, the Lady Badgers gradually built their lead before going on a 13-4 run to start the third quarter to seize control. The run was capped by a created fast break, finished by a layup by Lange, as Snow took a 55-34 lead with 6:07 left in the third quarter.
“We played our bench a lot,” Russell said. “We tried to not play Japrix and Sarah 40 minutes.”
It’s difficult to repeatedly beat a team, Russell said, pointing out that the Lady Badgers had already beaten the Lady Spartans three times.
Russell liked his team’s offense against CNCC, noting that Snow played “fluid.” But Russell was disappointed with Snow’s defense. Russell could live with the Lady Badgers limiting the Lady Spartans to eight 3-pointers (Snow’s goal was six) given that CNCC went 22-of-54 in its prior game.
Russell was impressed with Lange’s 8-of-10 performance, with Weaver’s afternoon (she scored 23 points on 5-of-10 shooting from 3) and that the Lady Badgers assisted on 22 of 30 baskets. He also noted Rachel Richards’ boost off the bench. She shot 4-of-5 and had five assists.
Snow outscored CNCC 21-15, 21-15, 21-16 and 21-14 in each quarter. Russell said it was good to see the Lady Badgers be consistent because they haven’t always been this season.
Snow shot 53 percent from the 3-point line against the Lady Spartans.
Against SLCC, Weaver was carried on a woman’s back after her injury. Lange exited the game with 5:27 left in the first quarter.
Snow got four key points late from Richards, a third-year player for Snow who played on the Lady Badgers’ conference championship team in 2019. It was tied at 53 with about two minutes left in the game when Richards made two free throws. Then Richards made a layup on a one-woman fast break for a 57-53 lead with around 1:20 to go in the contest.
“For her to do that, I wasn’t surprised,” Russell said. “She kind of put us on her back when we needed it and brought us home.”
Eskelson added two free throws for a 59-53 Snow lead with 58.2 seconds left in the contest after two Lady Badger stops.
CSI played 13 players to Snow’s seven in the title game.
“We were outmanned,” Russell said, having noted that the Lady Golden Eagles had players who hadn’t played all season who “kind of played out of their heads.”
“Whether we had seven or 12, we didn’t play very well,” Russell said. “We missed a lot of open shots. … Last night’s game took it out of us.”
Despite the obscene difference in players between the two teams, the Lady Badgers were outscored by just nine in the second half.
“We never gave up,” Russell said. “We got down big and never quit.”
CSI had nine offensive rebounds in the first half and 15 for the game.
“That’s hard to compete with,” Russell said.
Lady Golden Eagle post players Jordan Todd and Sierra Davis shot 6-of-8 and 5-of-7, respectively.
Todd is “just so strong,” Russell said. “Davis … shoots it well from the outside.”
Russell regretted not doubling in the post earlier in the game, he said.
Four out of Snow’s seven players had 11-plus points, but Russell pointed out that his team shot just 32 percent.
“That’s just too low,” Russell said Saturday. “Shots that we made yesterday that didn’t go in today.”
Edwards and Eskelson were named to the all-tournament team.
“It’s awesome. Well-deserved,” Russell said. “Those girls stepped up in the absence of our girls from yesterday … so I’m not surprised by that one.”
The Lady Badgers finished the season with a 17-7 record, marking the second time in the past three seasons with a winning percentage over 70 percent.
During the tournament, all-region honorees were announced. Weaver made the first team and Lange and Edwards made the second team.
“What an honor,” Russell said.”
“Japrix was great all year,” Russell said. “She was our go-to player … she was exceptional as a freshman.”
“I may be biased, but I think Sarah is the best post player in our conference,” Russell said.
“Ashlee is just exceptional,” Russell said, noting that she sometimes gets “overshadowed” by Weaver.
Four freshmen were recognized. Three of them are from Snow.