Last Saturday, the Temple College Lady Leopards formulated a fourth-quarter rally that not only beat the Weatherford Lady Coyotes but secured a top-four seed and a first-round home game to begin the women’s Northern Texas Junior College Athletic Conference tournament.
Fast forward to Wednesday’s rematch of the two programs, and it was the Lady Coyotes who put together a second-half run that not only launched them into the conference quarterfinals but abruptly ended the Lady Leopards’ season on their home court.
Fifth-seeded Weatherford used a 12-1 run over the final 3 minutes of the second quarter to lead at halftime and outscored fourth-seeded Temple 25-9 in the third for an 88-65 win at TC Gym to begin the NTJCAC tournament.
The Lady Coyotes will play top-seeded Hill (20-2) in the second round later this week.
“I think for 18 out of the 20 minutes in the first half, we played good. Except for the last two minutes, I thought we won the first half,” said first-year TC head coach Amber Taylor, whose team beat Weatherford 83-82 last Saturday, which tied the Lady Leopards for third place in the conference. A coin flip decided TC’s No. 4 seed. “We started to turn the ball over, take some bad shots and (Weatherford) hit some shots. But still, you’re down six at halftime, you feel like you’re right there.”
Temple (14-7) was still in the game, but things quickly took a turn for the worse. Weatherford (14-7) opened its lead to 42-32 with 7 minutes left in the third, and Adela Valkova made it 57-36 with less than 2 minutes left after a basket and a pair of free throws. The Lady Leopards shot just 5-for-33 and had nine turnovers over the middle quarters.
“This go-round, we had crucial people in foul trouble. That was a drastic change from the last time we played them. Today was a lot like the first time we played Weatherford,” TC sophomore Jordyn Carter said, referring to Temple’s 76-69 loss to Weatherford last month in the teams’ first meeting. “They were in their groove, didn’t miss hardly anything and we were just falling short.”
The Lady Leopards shot 31 percent (22-for-71) for the game, while the Lady Coyotes posted a scorching 63 percent (36-for-57) shooting mark.
Kennedi Green led TC with 14 points. Jordan Walker added 12, and Starr Jacobs — who led the conference in scoring at 24.4 points per game and had 40 points Saturday — finished with 11. Marlaina Spearman and Carter scored eight points apiece.
Diamond Sweats and Valkova finished with 20 points each to pace Weatherford. Sweats scored all but one of her points in the second half and made eight of 11 attempts after halftime. Valkova used her size to grab offensive rebounds and score high-percentage baskets. She had 10 of her points in the third.
“They’re big and they run their game plan very well,” Taylor said. “Anytime you play someone back-to-back, it’s very challenging, especially if you won the time before. It’s tough to come back and win again. Still, we’re proud of the kids for the year and to finish in the top four of our conference, which hasn’t been done for a while.”
TC jumped out to an 11-5 lead midway through the first quarter and made it 15-5 after Spearman scored off a Carter pass. Weatherford cut the gap to 20-15 to start the second quarter. Jacobs picked up her third foul with less than 3 minutes to go before halftime with TC leading 30-26. The Lady Leopards didn’t score again before the break as Valkova hit two free throws, Sweats added another, Jasmyne Robinson converted a layup, Adreanna Waddle scored from the post, and Briarley Rogers finished a layup off a TC turnover in the closing seconds of the first half.
“They were hitting shots, but defensively they did nothing different than the last time we played them,” Taylor said. “We also didn’t rebound as well as we did Saturday. If we clean some things up, we’re in the game.”
Per the NJCAA’s ruling on eligibility impacted by the pandemic, each TC player will be allowed an extra year to compete. The Lady Leopards have nine sophomores that could — if they so choose —return to play next season. However, Taylor said there is plenty of time to figure that out. For now, the Lady Leopards are enjoying what they accomplished this year.
Carter couldn’t agree more.
“We had some players get COVID, some got hurt and then just playing during a pandemic, it was a crazy year,” Carter said. “Making the tournament, playing at home for it, it was just really special. I wish we could have done better, but this season was still pretty special.”