Kirkwood takes home NJCAA hardware

March 23, 1997


Staff Correspondent

Kirkwood (Iowa) scored 10 unanswered points during a 3-1/2-minute span early in the second half, snapping a halftime tie with Carl Sandburg, and held on down the stretch to claim a 76-67 win and the 1997 NJCAA Women's Division II national championship Saturday night.

Freshman Desiree Francis scored 24 points and pulled down 10 rebounds to lead the Eagles and coach Kim Muhl to their first junior college national title. Based on her four-game performance, Francis was named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament.

"The 10-point run at the start of the second half was the difference," said Francis. "Once we get a lead there's no looking back. Give credit to our guards, they played great second-half defense."


Guard Angie Ryan scored 10 of her 14 points in the second half to help stave off a late charge by Carl Sandburg, and was selected to the all-tournament team.

Jesse Vercande stepped up big from the perimeter for Kirkwood (34-3), breaking a cold streak in the semis, hitting all six of her 3-point attempts and scoring 19 points.

"I shot the ball with a lot more confidence tonight," said Vercande. "Plus having this be my last junior college game, it meant a lot to play well."

Francis scored 14 first-half points as the Eagles pushed out to an early lead, but Carl Sandburg (29-7) rallied with full-court pressure to force a 35-35 tie at halftime.

Mary Baker's 20 points and a full-court press pulled the Chargers back into contention after they trailed by as many as 12 points in the second half.

The closest they got down the stretch was eight points as Kirkwood hit its foul shots, rebounded and broke Carl Sandburg's full-court trap over the final five minutes.

"Defense did it again for us the second half tonight," said Muhl. "Vercande, Ryan and (Jamie) Juhl all stepped up and played great defense when we needed it again tonight."

Allison Iversen hauled down 11 rebounds and scored 11 points adding strong inside play for Kirkwood, which outrebounded the smaller Chargers, 41-26.

Ami Pendry finished with 13 points and Tara Petty had 10 points for Carl Sandburg. Roslyn Turner and Tara Miller were selected to the all-tournament team for Carl Sandburg.

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