Kirkwood serves champion notice

The defending NJCAA champion showed it is serious about keeping the crown with a dominating opening-game performance against Red

The defending NJCAA champion showed it is serious about keeping the crown with a dominating opening-game performance against Red

March 21, 2003|by BILL STERNER / Staff Correspondent

For the Kirkwood (Iowa) Community College women's basketball team, its game and finesse are about as synonymous as ballroom dancing and a bar-room brawl.

It doesn't matter. The Eagles get the job done.

Kirkwood, the defending natonal champions, opened up its NJCAA Women's Division II title defense on Thursday with a resounding 66-44 win over Redlands (Okla.) Community College at Hagerstown Community College's athletic complex.

The Eagles wasted little time in making a strong statement of their intentions for this tournament. They had come east to defend their title with a vengence.

The Eagles consistently outhustled and outmuscled Redlands for the entire game.

Kirkwood hit its first six shots to race out to a 16-1 lead and never looked back. In fact, Redlands played more minutes than it scored points as the Cougars' fast-paced offense was held to nine points in the first 11 minutes.


Kirkwood used an array of matchup zones mixed in with good ol'-fashioned nose-to-nose defense to first confuse and then frustrate Redlands into numerous turnovers and several unprofitable trips down the floor.

Meanwhile, Kirkwood's offense used a deliberate set under the controls of sophomores Megan Ripperton and Vanessa Shrock, along with Meleka Hawkins and Tess Meyer, to quickly put distance between the Eagles and the Cougars.

"We plan on playing in fourth gear all the time," said Meyer, a freshman forward, while pointing to a magic markered "4" tattoo that is scrawled on the arm of every Kirkwood player's arm. "We will not only play uptempo, but we will also control the tempo."

Meyer, Shrock and Hawkins immediatedly went to work to neutralize Redland's 6-foot-5 center Shannon Avery, while Kirkwood's backcourt shut off the passing lanes of Cougars point guard Ashley Perkins.

It ws complete domination on both ends of the floor.

"Avery was really strong in there," Meyer said. "We wanted to get the ball out of their hands and into our hands as quickly as possible."

Avery was never a factor under the backboards as the aggressive Eagles outrebounded the Cougars 34-24.

"We executed well everywhere tonight," Kirkwood coach Kim Muhl said. "I thought we would at least have a case of nerves, but they really were ready to play."

"We've been sitting around since Saturday thinking of this game," Shrock said. "We were so ready to play and our bench was great. Everyone really was into this tonight."

Right from the start, the Eagles attacked Redlands' zone defense. Kirkwood worked the ball into the low post to Meyer and Shrock, while Ripperton kept the Cougars on their heels throwing laser passes inside for the easy layups.

"Megan did a nice job setting things up in there and keeping focused," Muhl said. "We had one lull in the first half, but after that, I though we stayed focused and, for the most part, played well."

"There are some of us who know what it takes to win this tournament," Ripperton said. "The great thing about this team is they all want to do the right thing. We will be ready tomorrow."

Monroe 78, Northwest-Shoals 55

Nastassia Boucicault led Monroe Community College into the semifinals with 16 points, while Tara Walker had 15 and Melissa Gathers 13.

Sheree Thompson had 14 points for Northwest-Shoals.

Illinois Central 77, Sinclair 70

Illinois Central came back from a 3-point defecit at the half to advance to the semifinals.

Amy Fuller led Illinois Central with 26 points, while Daria Mieloszynska added 14.

Crystal Penleton scored 24 points and Tiffany Peacock added 21 for Sinclair.

Mitchell 64, Phoenix 60

Carmella Suggs led Mitchell College to the semifinals with 29 points and nine rebounds, while Aimee Khun had 16 points and Jade Leitao added 15.

Kelly McRee scored 13 points for Phoenix.

Kankakee 60, CCAC/Allegheny 44

Andrea Engleking led Kankakee Community College to a loser's bracket victory with 22 points and 10 rebounds, while Valerie Zarse scored 11 points.

Alexis Pugh scored 13 points for Allegheny, while Lia Wyland added 11.

Owens 76, Bismarck State 69

Stacy Weiland scored 19 points for Owens Community College in a loser's bracket game, while Michelle Vorst scored 15 points, Shannon Kubicek 14 and Tonia Willis 12.

Lacey Sayler led all scorers with 26 points for Bismarck State.

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