AP NEWS

LOCAL COLLEGE: Lady Falcons Fall In Final Four

March 23, 2019 GMT

HARRISON, Arkansas — As the Lackawanna women’s basketball team opened the fourth quarter with three quick points, there was an overwhelming sense the momentum started to shift.

The Lady Falcons clawed within two points of Region 19 rival Union County, a team they had already seen four times this season — and beaten twice — and there were still more than nine minutes to play.

But the Lady Owls responded with a quick basket, and then another, and then they continued to score. Their two-point lead ballooned into a 14-point advantage, and Lackawanna could not fight back.

The Lady Falcons’ quest for a national championship ended at Pioneer Pavilion on Friday evening, as they dropped a 69-55 decision in the Final Four. Lackwanna, seeded 13th in the 16-team NJCAA Division II tournament, will play No. 7 seed Cape Fear of Wilmington, North Carolina, in the third-place game tonight at 6.

“This was our third game in three days. Fatigue set in,” Lady Falcons head coach Joya Whittington said after the loss, which dropped Lackawanna to 27-7. “We weren’t able to manage it as well as they did.”

It was also the third time the Lady Falcons played the Owls (29-4) in the past three weeks.

The team from Cranford, New Jersey, beat Lackawanna, 79-69, in double-overtime for the Region 19 title March 3, then posted a 69-64 victory in the District N/O championship game one week later.

The Lady Falcons defeated Union County twice during the regular season, winning 60-50, in November and, 71-69, in mid-February. Whittington said she did not feel the two teams’ prior history had much influence on Friday’s outcome, as both teams grappled with the tournament’s demanding schedule.

Union County was perhaps the better-conditioned team, which helped put them over the top.

“They’re a super athletic team,” Whittington said. “They had an edge, for sure.”

The Lady Falcons led, 13-6, with about six minutes to go in the first quarter before Union County rolled off an 8-1 run to close the frame. Lackawanna fought back in the second period and led, 23-22, with about three minutes to go, but the Lady Owls answered with eight straight points to take the lead for good.

Keyanah Price, who had 11 points, was the only Lackwanna player to reach double-digits in scoring.

Yamel Abreu had 12 points and 12 rebounds, while Jessica Woods added 11 points and 12 rebounds to lead Union County.

Union County will play Kansas City Kansas for the national championship tonight at 8:30 p.m.

The Lady Blue Devils knocked off No. 14 Chesapeake in the opening round of the tournament, 82-56, and defeated No. 6 Pima in the quarterfinals, 82-68. Union County’s other wins came against No. 8 seed South Suburban, 67-55, and a stunning 86-80 victory over top-seeded Illinois Central in the semifinals.

Whittington said the Lady Falcons will pull for their Region 19 rivals.

“Having two (Final Four) teams from the same region says a lot about where we’re coming from,” she said.

Lackawanna’s opponent in the third-place game, Cape Fear (27-5), was eliminated from title contention following an 83-75 loss to third-seeded Kansas City Kansas in the other semifinal earlier Friday evening.

The Lady Sea Devils boast one of the nation’s most potent offenses, entering Friday night’s game ranked sixth in the country with 83.6 points per game. They won 12 straight games before Friday’s loss, including a 116-105 victory over No. 2 seed North Iowa Area in the quarterfinals in which they set a single-game NJCAA Division II Tournament scoring record.

No matter the result, Whittington said she is proud with her team’s season — particularly her 11 freshmen.

“It’s a hard thing we asked them to do,” Whittington said. “I’m thankful for them. They bought into what we do at Lackawanna. You have to be thankful. They fought hard and put the college on the map.”

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