Johnson Co. title run born through labor

March 21, 2001

Johnson Co. title run born through labor


NJCAA Division II Women's Tournament

at Hagerstown Community College

Today's Games

Game 1: Glendale vs. Kalamazoo Valley, Noon

Game 2: Lakeland College vs. Penn Valley, 2

Game 3: South Suburban vs. Johnson County, 6

Games 4: Schoolcraft College vs. Monroe CC, 8

Thursday's Games

Game 1: Glendale/Kalamazoo Valley loser vs. Lakeland/Penn Valley loser, 10 a.m.

Game 2: South Suburban/Johnson County loser vs. Schoolcraft/Monroe loser, Noon

Game 3: Glendale/Kalamazoo Valley winner vs. Mitchell College, 2

Game 4: Lakeland/Penn Valley vs. Frederick CC, 4


Game 5: South Suburban/Johnson County winner vs. Waldorf CC, 6:30

Game 6: Schoolcraft/Monroe winner vs. Northwest Shoals, 8:30

The last time Debbie Carrier was in Hagerstown, she was hoping and expecting at the same time.


It was a time of labor for Carrier, who was coaching Johnson County (Kan.) Community College in its first-ever appearance in the National Junior College Athletic Association women's Division II basketball tournament during her seventh month of pregnancy.

In return, she got the ultimate delivery. First, the Cavaliers delivered on the 2000 national championship just five weeks before the debut of Carrier's third child, Kailea.

Now Carrier is back for another go-round in 2001 - the national tournament, not another child - when the Cavaliers return to HCC's athletic complex today to face South Suburban (Ill.) in the opening round of their title defense in the 12-team, double-elmination tournament.

"It's going to be much tougher to defend the title," Carrier said. "Last year, a lot of people didn't know about us. We are the only Division II team in a Division I conference."

Johnson County is one of six teams returning to this year's field, including Frederick Community College. It was a road less traveled for the Cavaliers to return to the nationals, but it doesn't mean that it was any easier.

"Last year, we had to travel to North Dakota to win the title," Carrier said. "This year we played the district tournament at home and played our best ball of the year."

The Cavaliers have built a 17-12 record and a No. 9 ranking in the Division II poll with virtually a new, smaller team.

"We are pretty new," Carrier said. "I was watching a film of last year's South Suburban game (the first game of the tournament) and realized that they have 35 of their 62 points from last year's team returning. We only have nine of our 65 back."

Johnson County has a pair of freshmen leading the scoring while two sophomores hold down the rebounding chores. Casey Ellis and Lynsay Gallagher are averaging 14 points per game while Somer Easterwood and Gayla Brown are the top rebounders.

"Gallagher is our best athlete while Gayla only saw limited action last season," Carrier said. "We are small. She is 5-foot-9 but is our center and leading rebounder. She just knows how to work and position herself for the ball."

Johnson County will have to take a longer road if it plans to defend its title. Last year, the Cavaliers got a first-round bye. This year, they will have to play all four days if they plan to repeat.

South Suburban, Johnson's County's first opponent, also returns and is led by Lennetta Bentley, the 15th leading scorer in the nation at 19 points per game. Also back in the field is Monroe (N.Y.) Community College, which lost to the Cavaliers in the last year's final. Mitchell (Conn.) College, Frederick and Penn Valley (Mo.) complete the field of returning teams.

Kalamazoo Valley (Mich.) Community College, the top ranked team in the nation, is making its first appearance on the nationals. Kalamazoo is one of five top 10 ranked teams in the field, including Penn Valley (No. 2), Monroe (No. 4), Schoolcraft (No. 7) and Johnson County. Frederick, South Suburban and Waldorf (Iowa) College all are honorable mentions.

Conspicuously missing from the 12-team field is Illinois Central College, which has appeared in seven of the first eight tournaments played in Hagerstown.

ICC's absence only emphasizes to Johnson County how easy it is to be knocked out of contention for a title.

"We just have to play real smart," Carrier said. "We are more athletic but not as big as last year's team. You need a lot of luck to win a title but you have to show up and play. The one team that is most consistent and can play good defense has a good chance, even if the shots aren't going in. We will play hard and keep going until the ball starts going into the hoop."

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