By George Watson
LUBBOCK, Texas – No. 1 vs. No. 2 was the matchup everyone anticipated coming into the 2018 NJCAA Division I Women's National Basketball Tournament, just not when it happened.
After both No. 1 Shelton State and No. 2 Gulf Coast State were upset in the semifinals, the teams clashed in the third-place game Saturday at the Rip Griffin Center.
Alabama signee Cierra Johnson set NJCAA tournament single-game and cumulative scoring records, and a day after losing their first game of the season, the Lady Bucs ran away from a depleted Gulf Coast State team to claim their third straight third-place finish with a 98-64 victory.
Johnson, the tournament MVP, scored 47 points, eclipsing the 46-point mark set by Natashia Morehead of Gulf Coast in 2003, and her 124 points in the tournament bettered by six the previous mark of 118 points scored by Kim Wingard of Holmes (Miss.) Community College in 1992.
"I'm honestly lost for words right now," said Johnson, who hit the marks despite spraining her ankle and missing most of the third quarter while being attended to. "My motivation for this game was because we weren't in the championship game. Like coach said, we wanted the highest award we could get, and a sprained ankle ... wasn't going to stop me from getting what we all wanted."
Margaret Robinson added 18 points for the Lady Bucs, who shot 52.9 percent (36 of 68) from the field for the game while also getting 27 points off 16 Gulf Coast turnovers. The victory also gave the outgoing sophomores at Shelton State their 70th career victory.
"Obviously we wanted to be in the championship game and we weren't, but we did finish with a great game. It was a great performance," Shelton State head coach Madonna Thompson said. "We unloaded the bench, and everyone got to play. I thought we looked good and beat one of the top programs, if not the top program in the nation."