Northwest Florida’s shots from beyond the arc propelled the Raiders to a 77-64 win over Seward County in the semifinals of the NJCAA national tournament Friday.
”We never said we were going to let them shoot,” Seward coach Bryan Zollinger said. “I think we thought maybe they would miss on their own, that just wasn’t happening.”
Northwest Florida didn’t trail after taking the lead with 13:43 left in the first half.
“I think we made it very hard for them to get good shots,” Northwest Florida coach Steve Forbes said. “Where they could hurt us was on the glass, I thought they hurt us in the first half and kept them in the game.”
The Raiders led 38-25 at halftime and Seward managed to get within six points with 10:41 left in the game.
“We got into a hole, with the shots they hit, we played well enough defensively to stay in the game, the problem was offensively we had no rhythm, we had no flow,” Zollinger said. “That’s the way sports go sometimes, it just wasn’t in the cards for us to win.”
Freshman point guard Chris Jones ended with 24 points for the Raiders, and Teraes Clemmons added 15, making three of three from behind the arc.
“I felt like he (Clemmons) was the x-factor in the game,” Zollinger said. “The other guys hit their averages, nobody was really outside of their norm, but he was the x-factor.”
Northwest Florida will play South Plains tomorrow for the national title.
This is Seward’s fourth appearance in the tournament, finishing third its previous three times. The Saints will have a shot at third place for the fourth time today, when they will play Eastern Oklahoma in the third place game.
“The way I look at it, you come into the tournament a winner, and if you have the opportunity to leave a winner, we don’t get to play for first anymore, but if we’re going to suit up and play I’d rather get third than fourth,” Zollinger said. “As disappointed as we may be right now, they’re going to feel a lot better going down the road if they come back and compete well.”
Halftime— Northwest Florida 38, Seward 25. Three-pointers— Northwest Florida 9-21 (Clemmons 3-3, Jones 3-9, T. Jackson 2-5, Hunter 1-2, Davis 0-1, Donley 0-1), Seward 5-19 (Hollinger 2-4, Pearson 1-1, Jenkins 1-1, Ransom 1-6, Wade 0-1, Starks 0-3, Biggs 0-3). Rebounds— Northwest Florida 30 (Hunter 7), Seward 38 (Avila 8). Assists— Northwest Florida 11 (Jones 3), Seward 6 (Ransom 3). Total fouls— Northwest Florida 21 Seward 17.