Tyler Junior College women’s basketball coach Trenia Jones will take any kind of win this year. That’s especially true when her team clinches a playoff berth.
In the final home game of a forgetful season, the Apache Ladies snapped a six-game losing streak and earned a spot in the Region XIV basketball tournament with a 58-56 victory against Kilgore College on Wednesday at Wag-staff Gymnasium.
“We’re just playing for dear life at this time,” Jones said. “When you’re in a situation when you have absolutely nothing to lose, you just give it everything you’ve got. And I think that’s what those girls did.”
The Sophomore Night triumph improved the Apache Ladies to 11-17 overall and 4-11 in conference, and dropped Kilgore to 10-15 and 5-10. TJC struggled in a meeting between the teams earlier this month, falling 88-58 on the road.
Apache Ladies freshman sensation Shernise Robertson helped make sure that didn’t happen again, though. The point guard finished with a game-high 21 points, connecting on a pair of free throws to give TJC a 56-55 lead with 1:04 left in the second half.
Kilgore evened things up with 47 seconds remaining when Amanda Lawson made the front end of a 1-and-1, but the Apache Ladies regained the lead with two free throws by Bria Emanuel.
With time running out, Kilgore had multiple go-ahead opportunities but missed on a pair of 3-pointers — the second behind a desperation heave as time expired.
Emanuel finished with 11 points and six rebounds for the Apache Ladies, whose last victory came Jan. 30 against San Jacinto College-North (92-76).
Kilgore’s top scorers were Gabrielle Jackson (13 points), Victoria Billingsley (12 points) and Kiera Phipps (11 points).
TJC battled back from multiple large deficits in the first half, which featured the Apache Ladies going on an 11-0 run to turn an eight-point deficit into a 19-16 lead.
Kilgore also got into the act when it came to runs, answering TJC’s with a 12-0 run to lead 28-19 with 4:14 left before halftime — the last time the Lady Rangers scored in the half. TJC closed it out with another 11-0 run to take a surprising 30-28 lead into the break.
“It’s just perseverance,” Jones said. “You knew they were capable of making runs. At their place they made runs and beat us by 30 points, so we knew what they were capable of. We just kept playing and kept playing and wouldn’t give up.”
The Apache Ladies made 13 of 16 free throws in the first half, and then made seven of nine in the final 20 points to finish an impressive 20 of 25 for the game.
It was the final home game for sophomores Kim Munoz, Sierra Henry, Carolina Lopez and Adrienne Phillips. The four were recognized before the game, as were other sophomores involved with the program.
“It makes it special,” Jones said. “It makes it something that’s memorable. These kids get to leave this court with a win that’s something they haven’t gotten to do a lot this semester.”
The conference tournament is set for March 6-9 at UT Tyler’s Herrington Patriot Center. TJC closes out the regular season Saturday at Jacksonville College (2 p.m.).
Region XIV Women’s Basketball
Tyler Junior College 58, Kilgore College 56
KILGORE — Amanda Lawson, 8; Victoria Billingsley, 12; Gabrielle Jackson, 13; Bladine N’Goran, 8; Kiera Phipps, 11; Cieara Jimmerson, 2; Maria Leaks, 2.
TYLER — Bria Emanuel, 11; Shernise Robertson, 21; Raiosha Preston, 4; Adrienne Phillips, 6; Carolina Lopez, 9; Blayke Hemmitt, 3; Sierra Henry, 2; Zhane Anderson, 2.
THREE POINT GOALS — KC: Jackson (3), Phipps (2). TJC: Hemmitt, Robertson, Robertson.
RECORDS — Kilgore 10-15 (5-10); TJC 11-17 (4-11).
NEXT UP — Angelina at Kilgore, 4 p.m. Saturday; TJC at Jacksonville College, 2 p.m. Saturday.