BEL AIR, MD --- The Lady Avengers are headed to Salina, Kansas!
Freshman guard Erica Juarbe scored a team-high 15 points and freshman guard Kelcey Castro added 12 second-half bench points to lead #19 ASA Women's Basketball to a 66-54 victory over Harford Community College on Saturday afternoon at Harford's APGFCU Arena. The victory gives the Lady Avengers the program's first District C Division I championship and clinches their first appearance in the NJCAA Division I Women's National Championship.
The matchup between the champions of Region XV and Region XX was as much a battle as their last meeting on January 24 - a 72-64 win for ASA - and was fitting for a game with such high stakes.
ASA opened the game on a 10-2 run over the first eight minutes of the game, highlighted by five points from sophomore guard Brianna Mitchell to begin the night for the Lady Avengers. However, ASA would go 0-for-3 from the field and free throw line over the next 4:42 as Harford (25-4) used an 11-2 run to take a 13-12 lead with 7:14 left in the first half. The Fighting Owls would push their lead to as much as five before settling on a 28-25 lead at halftime.
Juarbe would step up huge for ASA once the second half began. After only scoring two points and not attempting a field goal in the first period, she would convert on her first two shots to pull ASA to within one, 30-29, at the 19:08 mark. A layup by sophomore guard Shaquita Smith about a minute later would give ASA a 31-30 lead, its first since the 8:12 mark of the first half (12-11).
The game would see three ties over the next five minutes before a Smith three-pointer game the Lady Avengers the lead for good, 39-36, with 13:36 remaining in the game. Harford played true to their name and fought to keep the game close, but Juarbe and Castro closed the door down the stretch, combining for 18 of the team's final 27 points. Overall, Juarbe and Castro put in 23 of their combined 25 points after the half.
Smith finished with 13 points and a game-high four assists. Mitchell was close to a double-double from the guard spot, scoring nine points and grabbing seven rebounds. Sophomore forwards Sashana Bucknor and Tiffany Jones led the way in the rebounding column, pulling down 12 and 11 rebounds respectively.
Harford's Capree Garner led her team with a game-high 22 points.
ASA will learn its seed and first opponent after the NJCAA Women's Basketball Selection Committee completes the tournament field on Monday, March 11. The Tournament will take place at the Salina Bicentennial Center from March 18-23.