LUBBOCK, Texas — Bart Walker had no answers.
Without watching the game film, the Northwest Florida State women’s basketball coach couldn’t say how Tallahassee completed its Elite-Eight comeback. How the Raiders’ season had somehow come to an end against the Eagles for the second time in less than a month. How an eight-point lead had turned into a 55-52 loss Thursday night at the Rip Griffith Center in Lubbock, Texas.
“We were just inefficient tonight with the ball,” Walker said. “It’s hard to say (what went wrong) without watching the film. I just thought we were inefficient in execution.”
Tallahassee (27-6 overall) wasn’t.
The Eagles’ comeback started in the third quarter. They had trailed 27-20 at halftime. Raider guard Georgia Gayle pushed that deficit to eight points with seven minutes left in the frame. Then NWF State (24-7) stopped scoring.
For almost five minutes Tallahassee played seemingly unimpeded by the Raider defense.
Mari Hill started the run with a 3-pointer to make the deficit five. Jada Perry cut it to four exactly one minute later with a free throw. Back-to-back 3-pointers from Nakiah Black, who finished with a game-high 20 points, gave the Eagles a two-point advantage and their first lead since the game’s opening bucket. Two more Perry free throws made it a four-point game.
The NWF State team that had controlled the first half was now hapless. Walker watched from the sideline as Tallahassee finished the quarter on a 16-4 run and built a nine-point lead in the fourth.
The Raiders trailed the rest of the way, and now their unlikely tournament run is over, vanquished by the same team that seemingly ended their season at the end of February with a 57-53 victory in a tiebreaker game for a spot in the Region 8 tournament. The loss was NWF State’s fourth in a row to end the regular season.
“It’s a war every time we play ’em,” Walker said. “It’s a physical game every time we play ’em … We battled like that all year long in our conference.”
Trinity Bapptiste and Leandra Echi tied for the team lead with 13 points Thursday. Gayle was close behind with 12 points, 11 coming in the second half.
Much of the stat sheet read fairly similarly after the game Thursday, and the difference proved to be on the offensive glass. Tallahassee outrebounded the Raiders 17-8 on the offensive glass, leading to a 15-2 advantage in second-chance points and six more field goal attempts.
Despite the loss at the end of the regular season, NWF State entered the 2018 NJCAA national tournament as a 14 seed with an at-large bid. The Raiders reeled off a win against No. 19 Panola in the opening before shocking undefeated Moberly Area, a three seed, on Wednesday night for a spot in the Elite Eight.