By SETH STRINGER
LUBBOCK – Some would call it flat-out dominant. Others would label it routine, expected after the NWF State women battled the toughest schedule of any team in the national tournament field.
Whatever description you settle on for the Raiders' 79-50 first-round win over NOC-Enid on Tuesday at Rip Griffin Center, this was a statement.
And not just by NWF State's defense, the M.O. of Bart Walker's crew all season long.
The 6-foot-3 McCoy dominated the paint with 10 rebounds and a 10-for-17 shooting effort for 18 points, while Gayle buried 6-of-9 treys for 18 points to accent four rebounds and three assists.
"This gym is like our gym at home so I feel like I'm at home shooting the ball," said Gayle, who entered the tournament averaging 12 points a night.
Point guard Leandra Echi, like she's done all year, filled up the stat sheet with nine points, seven rebounds, five steals, four assists and four blocks.
Cece Mayo added 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting and Shania Meertens chipped in 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting to accompany five assists and two blocks. Alayjah Sherer buried 3-of-5 attempts from beyond the arc for nine points and Awa Trasi delivered nine boards for the Raiders, who posted a 41-23 disparity on the glass.
"Today was a great day for everybody all around," said McCoy, who entered the tournament averaging 11 points and 5.9 boards. "Georgia making the 3s early on really helped us with going inside and really helped us with getting the lane open. And when they came in, we were shooting it back out for Georgia to score and we did that for all the guards. So it made it really easy to do what we wanted on the offensive side."
Added Walker: "I felt like we moved the ball well, shared the ball well and shots were going in early so that helped our confidence."
The Jets shot just 26 percent from the floor and made just 2-of-15 attempts from 3, well short of their average of 9.4 treys a night on a blistering 39-percent clip. The Jets didn't score until the 4:43 mark of the first quarter, and they trailed 27-10 after the first quarter, 50-24 at halftime and 69-39 headed into the fourth quarter before NWF State emptied its bench.
"We ran them off the line and made them put it on the floor and score off the bounce," said Walker, who has the Raiders in the Sweet 16 for the second straight year. "We wanted to contest every shot and make them do something that felt uncomfortable.
"I feel like we succeeded with our game plan."
Sarah Griswold, the Jets' leading scoring with 18 points a night, was held to nine points on 2-of-7 shooting. Chelsea Lazenby needed 11 shots to post a team-best 12 points for the Jets, who committed 20 turnovers.
More impressive regarding NWF State's 29-point cushion was the Jets (28-4) entered on a 10-game win streak and 28-1 in their last 29 contests. But Panhandle teams are a different breed, as represented by the conference housing the last four national champions.
The Raiders now advance to the Sweet 16 to face sixth-seeded Butler (27-4), which earned a first-round bye after winning the Region 6 tournament. Tipoff is 8 p.m. Wednesday night in Lubbock.
"They're really athletic, the most athletic team in the Jayhawk league," Walker said. "It'll be interesting because it will be the opposite of our game today. It'll be more of an athletic game."