Southeast Community College’s women’s basketball team is the first in program history to qualify for the national tournament.
Fresh off their 62-61 victory over Bismarck State College in the District F championship game Sunday, the 14th-seeded Storm will play No. 3-seeded Kirkwood Community College of Iowa at 9 a.m. Tuesday in the first round of the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II National Tournament at Illinois Central College in East Peoria.
An SCC victory would put the Storm into a second-round game at 6 p.m. Wednesday against the winner between sixth-seeded Kishwaukee and 11th-seeded St. Clair County. A loss would put SCC into the consolation bracket and a 3 p.m. Wednesday contest against the loser between Kishwaukee and St. Clair County.
Every game of the tournament will be streamed live on the Internet at www.njcaatv.ihigh.com.
SCC head coach Vicki Wooton was candid about her team’s chances to beat Kirkwood.
“We’re going to have to play our best game,” Wooton said. “We have nothing to lose and everything to gain.”
SCC, 21-5, got a career-high 32 points from guard Monique Stevens, including the game-winning basket, to defeat Bismarck State. Stevens, a 5-2 sophomore from Australia, made 11 of 23 field goal attempts, including 5-for-10 from 3-point range, and 5 of 6 free-throw attempts to lead SCC against the Mystics.
“And what most people don’t know is that she had the stomach flu,” Wooton said.
Stevens made two key plays for the Storm in the final 30.6 seconds of last Sunday’s game in Bismarck. With the Mystics leading 60-57 with 1:30 remaining, Stevens got the ball on the left wing and shot a 3-pointer. She missed, but she was fouled on the shot. Stevens made all three of her free throws to tie the game 60-60 with 30.6 seconds left. After Bismarck State made one of two free throws just three seconds later for a 61-60 lead, Stevens brought the ball up court for SCC, saw an open lane and took it all the way in from the right side for the game-winning basket.
Kirkwood, 30-2, has a storied history in women’s basketball, having won national titles in 1997, 2002, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010. Head coach Kim Muhl is in his 23rd season and has led Kirkwood to 20 regional finals and 14 national tournament appearances.
Wooton is familiar with the Eagles as SCC met the Cedar Rapids, Iowa, team in district championship games in 2008 and 2010.
“They’re not as good as they were the last two times we played them,” Wooton said. “They’re a very tall team, and they have a couple of good guards. But they certainly have the national tournament experience.”
Wooton hopes her guards can play an up-tempo game that “could give Kirkwood some trouble.”
“We’re obviously going to try to run on them,” she said.
Wooton doesn’t expect her team to be awestruck despite its first-ever trip to nationals.
“We’ve done pretty well wherever we’ve played,” Wooton said. “Opposing gyms don’t seem to put them in awe. We’re the Cinderella story.”
Wooton said everyone affiliated with the SCC program is looking forward to the national tournament.
“It’s just a great experience for us to go,” she said. “This has been one of the most enjoyable years to coach this team. These young ladies know why they’re here. They’re into taking care of business. They like each other. Team chemistry has been good.”
NJCAA Division II National Tournament Seedings:
#1 Seed: District B (Region 2, 6, 23): Johnson County Community College, Kan. (31-1).
#2 Seed: District I (Region 12S): Cincinnati State Technical & Community College, Ohio (30-1).
#3 Seed: District E (Region 11): Kirkwood Community College, Iowa (30-2).
#4 Seed: District J (Region 10): Louisburg College, N.C. (28-1).
#5 Seed: District A (Region 1, 5): Mesa Community College, Ariz. (22-7).
#6 Seed: District L (Region 4B): Kishwaukee College, Ill. (25-8).
#7 Seed: District G (Region 12W): Lake Michigan College (27-4).
#8 Seed: District D (Region 4A): Prairie State College, Ill. (28-5).
#9 Seed: District N (Region 15, 19, 21): Monroe College, N.Y. (26-6).
#10 Seed: District M (Region 24): Lake Land College, Ill. (24-9).
#11 Seed: District H (Region 12E): St. Clair County Community College, Mich. (19-15).
#12 Seed: District P (Region 16): St. Louis Community College, Mo. (20-8).
#13 Seed: District K (Region 20): Chesapeake College, Md. (25-3).
#14 Seed: District F (Region 9, 13): Southeast Community College, Neb. (21-5).
#15 Seed: District O (Region 15, 19, 21): Lackawanna College, Pa. (20-7).
#16 Seed: District C (Region 3): Erie Community College, N.Y. (16-13).