Heartbreak in Overtime: Lady Raiders Fall Short of NJCAA National Championship

The Northwest Florida Lady Raiders put up a fierce fight in the NJCAA National Championship game against Hutchinson Blue Dragons, but a tough overtime battle ended in a heartbreaking loss. Despite the defeat, their determination and resilience shone throughout the game.

After traveling almost 1,400 miles to Casper, Wyoming, After multiple come-from-behind wins in less than a week, after overcoming an 11-point deficit in their final game together – The Northwest Florida Lady Raiders would fall one foul short of an NJCAA Ladies Basketball National Championship. 

The Hutchinson Blue Dragons – a team from Kansas that started the year unranked and unrespected – would take their final win of an undefeated season and their first national championship game win in four tries. 

The game was unforgiving, and multiple players fouled out after giving their all. A final quarter lead evaporated, and a drubbing in overtime sealed the deal for Hutchinson. 

The Raiders would ultimately lose in overtime 88-80 to a team with no players who cracked the six-foot mark but had hearts of lions. 

1st quarter

Deborah Davenport and Destiney McPhaul got an early start on scoring in the first quarter. 

Davenport would score two and play well early inside the critical. She’d also get a smack-down block, a couple of assists, and rebounds to establish dominance inside the paint early. 

Destiney McPhaul, though, would do most of the scoring in the first quarter. She’d take the Blue Dragons for seven points by the first media break. 

The Raiders turned the ball over five times early to keep Hutchinson ahead. Add in three fouls, and the Raiders surrendered the lead by the end of the first quarter. 

Neveah Scott missed two free throws in a row – but made up for it at the end of the quarter with a sublime pass to Kyla McBride for an easy layup. 

But Haley Jackson hit a crazy long three to put the Blue Dragons ahead by a triple at the end of the quarter. The Dragons would end the quarter ahead by three, 18-15. 

2nd quarter

Hutchinson was not the better team on the floor regarding pure talent. But it didn’t matter in the second quarter – just because they did the basics right. 

Honestly, The Raiders just played ugly – Destiney McPhaul, Deborah Davenport, and Celia Rivière scored no points the entire quarter. 

The Raiders continued to play fast and loose with the ball. Their high turnover rate, combined with their complete inability to grab defensive rebounds and shut down second-chance shots, gave the Blue Dragons an eleven-point lead. 

3rd quarter 

Just when you think it’s about to get ugly. Just when you are about to lose hope. That’s when the Raiders rallied. 

They started climbing deficit hill when they ran out of the locker room. On the first play of the half Celia Riviere would get the bucket and the foul off some superb post play – the high water mark of her night before she would foul out in dramatic circumstances at the end of the fourth quarter. 

Some questionable calls and more offensive rebounds kept Hutchinson within 11 points through the first half of the third quarter, but they hadn’t stamped Northwest’s hope out—especially for the Raiders star of the night, Destiney McPhaul.  

McPhaul didn’t quit. She’d keep fighting hard for 50-50 balls and keeping The Raiders in the last ditch fighting for an outside chance to stay in the game. Her heroics paid off for the Raiders, who would shrink a thirteen point difference to three in just a couple of game-minutes. By the end of the quarter, McPhaul would cap the comeback with two free throws and a layup to take the lead back from the Kansans.  

4th quarter

McPhaul hadn’t finished her fight. She’d start the fourth quarter scoring with a steal and layup combo that had you thinking the Raiders would end up with red and white confetti surrounding them at the end of regulation. 

But Hutchinson would show its ability to hang tough through the fourth quarter: they would not let the Raiders outside of a three-point lead as time winded down in regulation. 

Kiki Smith – a thorn in the Raider’s side all game flung a highly technical shot off the glass to bring the Dragons within two. 

Tension swamped the court as both teams played desperately not to lose. Hutchinson was the first to make a mistake that could have ended the game right then and there. On a shooting foul, Celia Riviere would have two shots with just 16 seconds left to go in regulation. Riviere sank the first free throw – but missed the second. 

With three seconds left on the clock and almost all hope gone for Hutchinson – Celia Riviere would make a fatal mistake on the court, fouling freshman Hailey Jackson behind the three-point line. 

To take the game to overtime, the freshman would have to sink all three free throws. Without any room for error, the Tulsa, Oklahoma native, who made just two of every three free throws she had during the year, sank all three.

Regulation would end, and Jackson would weep in the huddle from the roller coaster of stress she and her teammates rode to make it to overtime.  

Overtime 

Overtime began and left the Raiders behind. Destiney McPhaul’s sure hand would waver as she came up empty on all five of her field goals in overtime. 

On the other hand, Hutchinson would take Jackson’s hot streak and extend it through the waning moments of the national championship – scoring quickly and decisively to put the game out of reach. 

 

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