Hagerstown, Md. -- The little team that could didn't stand a chance against Northwest Shoals.
Haskell Indians Nations University, which earned its first-ever berth and its first-ever win in the NJCAA Div. II women's basketball tournament on the strength of its speed and in-your-face defense, was raked over the coals by Shoals, 92-63, in one of the tournament's semifinal games on Friday night at the Hagerstown CC Athletic Recreation and Community Center.
"When we looked at this team, we realized their talent, their stats, their height made them the team to beat," HINU freshman guard Toni Stanger said. "Losing to that team is nothing to be ashamed of. Just being on the floor with them was enough for Haskell."
Northwest Shoals, which is located in Muscle Shoals, Ala., will face Illinois Central CC in tonight's championship game. Haskell (27-2) will meet Mott (Mich.) CC in the third-place game at 5 p.m.
Shoals bumped Haskell into the consolations by beating the Indians at their own game. HINU went as far as it did with a relentless press, an in-your-face defense and a blazing transition game.
Shoals (29-7) had all those things, too. And it had greater height, speed and depth, which it used to force 35 turnovers, grab 54 rebounds and, basically, never let Haskell get even close.
"That's the fastest team we've ever seen," Haskell coach Phil Homeratha said. "I don't know what we could have done differently. When we watched them the other night, they weren't a very good outside-shooting team. So we played zone and they shot over it. They met our strength -- speed and quickness -- and they have more depth. They have a true All-American out there."
Homeratha was speaking of Taquilla Allen, a 5-foot-9 sophomore guard from Birmingham, Ala. In the tournament opener, Allen -- who has verbally committed to play at the University of Alabama -- scored a tournament-record 54 points. She torched Haskell for 25.
Allen is one of five sophomores on Shoals' team. Of the five, three are going on to play NCAA Div. I basketball, while two more will play Div. II ball. Homeratha, in contrast, would be content to find four-year schools, likely NAIA, for two of his players.
"Taquilla played well, but we all played in control," NWS coach Kristy Ward said. "We were able to play a lot of kids, and we forced 35 turnovers. That was a big part of it. I really didn't think it would be that big (of a margin). They play a lot like we do. We saw them (Thursday), and they played a lot better. I was really worried."
She didn't need to be. The Patriots bolted to an 11-0 lead, forcing seven turnovers on Haskell's first nine possessions. HINU never came closer than nine points the rest of the way.
"We just weren't ready to play," Haskell's Eve Robichaud said. "We could have beat them. We didn't think they could shoot much outside, and they came out and started busting them on us. We got in too deep a hole, and in the second half there was nothing we could do about it."
Marinda Lamon led the Indians with 17 points. Stanger, a reserve, added 14 points, while Robin Shield had 11 and Devon Townsend 10.
The Indians vowed not to overlook today's consolation opponent.
"We'll definitely be ready to play," Shield said. "We're proud of where we are. We beat the sixth team in the nation (Thursday). We made it to nationals. We hung in there. And we'll come to play."
"Third's a lot better than fourth," Robichaud said. "We'll be ready to play. We came to prove that Native women can play basketball."
-- Andrew Hartsock's phone number is 832-7216. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.