Raiders fall just shy of Final Four

Raiders fall just shy of Final Four


LUBBOCK – All season long, defense has been NWF State's bread and butter. 

That narrative continued in Thursday night's Elite Eight matchup against 14th-seeded Trinity Valley, yet the offense's deficiencies couldn't be overshadowed in a 61-49 loss at the Rip Griffin Center.

"I thought we had a good defensive game plan," said NWF State coach Bart Walker, who's led the Raiders to back-to-back Elite Eights. "They've been running up and down the court all week and we kind of alleviated that fast break. It was just a tough night of shooting the basketball.

"You gotta score to win obviously, and we just didn't have a good night of shooting the basketball."

NWF State, seeded 11th and finishing the season 26-6, shot just 37 percent from the floor and 4-of-13 from the foul stripe and was plagued by 16 turnovers as the Raiders trailed wire-to-wire: 15-13 after the first quarter, 28-21 at halftime and 44-35 entering the fourth quarter.

Shania Meertens led all Raiders with 14 points and Georgia Gayle, who finished the tournament 13-of-27 from 3 with 46 points, delivered 11 points.

To be fair, Trinity Valley was no typical No. 14 seed.

The Cardinals (29-4), who knocked off third-seeded Shelton State by 10 points in the Sweet 16, have finished national runners-up the last three years, and won it all as recently as 2013 and 2014. They advance to face second-seeded Gulf Coast State tonight in the Final Four.

To its credit, NWF State's defense shined in holding the Cardinals 18 points shy of their points per game season average. The Cardinals shot just 40 percent from the floor, but they also made 16 more free throws (12-of-18 in fourth quarter) than NWF State and went 7-of-15 from 3. Jasmine Smith led all Cardinals with 16 points. 

In its three games, NWF State allowed just 53.7 points per game. The Raiders now will prepare for an offseason where they'll graduate nine sophomores on the 11-woman roster.