Moberly Area women upset at NJCAA national tourney

Charles Chaney
Moberly Monitor-Index
Moberly Area's NJ Weems (22) attempts a shot against Eastern Arizona's Ajae Yoakum (12) in the first round of the NJCAA women's national tournament in the Rip Griffin Center on the campus of Lubbock Christian University on Tuesday, April 20.

LUBBOCK, Texas—Eastern Arizona College held Moberly Area Community College without a basket for more than five minutes as the Gila Monsters flipped a deficit into a first round win on Tuesday in the first round of the NJCAA women’s national tournament. 

EAC’s Nadira Iltayeb scored 16 second half points to lead the Gila Monsters to a 70-63 win over MACC. 

With the loss, MACC ends their season 18-6.

“I liked our effort,” Moberly Area Head Coach Hana Haden said. “We did some things you cannot do in the national tournament against some really good teams.” 

It felt heading into halftime as MACC was going to take this game. They had a 16-0 run to take the lead and pull into a double-digit advantage. Then were attacking the rim behind Kayla Langley and it appeared Eastern Arizona could not stop them. 

Then, the rebounding flipped and MACC started missing free throws. 

Eastern Arizona out rebounded the Lady Greyhounds 24-12 in the second half and MACC went 2 of 6 from the free throw line in the second half.

“You don’t want to shoot 100 percent but missing eight free throws for the game is not a way to win the game,” Haden said. 

The 16-0 run saw MACC take a 29-18 lead with 6:26 remaining in the first half when Ambranette Storr hit a pull-up jumper. 

Then, Eastern Arizona started chipping away at the lead. Ajae Yoakum and Eltayeb took turns scoring to get them back in it as they scored eight of the next 10 points for EAC. Isis Smith, who finished with nine points, nailed a three at the end of the half to bring the Gila Monsters within 34-31. 

MACC had pushed it out to a 7-point advantage once again in the third, with Langley going to the rim. However, MACC would miss four of their next five shots and EAC would capitalize. 

“We knew they were a really good team and they would answer back,” Haden said. “I felt like we couldn’t make enough plays.”

Nyeniea John made two free throws to give the Gila Monsters the lead for good with 7:44 remaining, starting a 9-0 run for the Gila monsters. It wouldn’t be until NJ Weems scored with 2:46 remaining, cutting the deficit to 64-55 would MACC find their footing again. 

“Credit to Eastern Arizona,” Haden said. “They rebounded well and made us pay when we made mistakes.”

Eastern Arizona out rebounded MACC 48-34 overall. 

Langely finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds to lead MACC. In all, the Lady Greyhounds finished with four players in double figures on the afternoon. 

EAC’s Eltaeyb had 20 points, 16 rebounds and five blocks to lead the Gila Monsters. Yoakum had 19 points and 13 rebounds of her own. 

EAC will now play third-seeded Chipola (18-4) on Wednesday in the Sweet 16.

Overall, these sophomores two-year span of 47 wins will go into the echelons of MACC basketball, coach Haden will have them in a special place in her memory.

“It’s what we’ve been through the last two seasons,” Haden said. “They’re really fun to be around, even though it was a hard season.

“They made this season really fun and I’ll never forget that.”

Charles Chaney has been the Sports Editor for the Butler County Times-Gazette since Aug. 2019. You can reach him at cchaney@butlercountytimesgazette.com or on Twitter at @ChuckChaneyBCTG.