OVERLAND PARK, KS — Last week at their twelfth-consecutive NJCAA Division II National Championship appearance in Overland Park, KS, the Monroe Women's basketball team put in a solid effort through the first two rounds, but fell short of the needed number of victories to bring home their fifth national title.
The first round of the NJCAA Division II National Championship saw the Mustangs face South Suburban College of Chicago, IL and take control of the game from the start. Nearly half of the team's points came from the bench; freshman Shania Johnson led the team with 13 points, four assists and two steals, while sophomore Aanise Barnes' 12 points and rebounds also proved an invaluable contribution. Linda Ulasi's strong scoring display, shooting 100 percent from the field and finishing with 12 points, was also impressive.
Advancing to the second round on Wednesday evening, the Mustangs exuded confidence and started out strong against Owens Community College (Toledo, OH). Unfortunately, however, as they moved into the second half, they seemingly lost their footing and found themselves trailing the opposition 84-63. Still, the Mustangs refused to give up and received a vital boost in the form of freshman guard Shania Johnson, who scored 22 of her 28 points in the second half and helped the team tie the game up to 94-94 at the final whistle.
Monroe's subsequent overtime difficulties, which saw sophomore guard Aaliyah Mercer and freshman forward Troniqua Black both fouling out of the game and having to sit the final minutes, undoubtedly impacted the final result. Owens seized this opportunity to outscore the Mustangs, going on a 19-8 run to win the game.
The third round of the tournament was make-or-break time for the Monroe women as they faced Guilford Technical Community College (Jamestown, NC). Their earlier loss against Owens served as ample motivation, driving them toward a 90-73 win. Sophomore guard Aaliyah Mercer led the charge, finishing the game with 16 points and three steals. The team also had help from Shania Johnson (14 points, eight assists and five steals), Karean Bellamy (14 points and two assists) and Breana Bey (12 points, three assists and four rebounds).
Having secured their win against Guilford Technical Community College, the team played Saturday against Kirkwood Community College (Cedar Rapids, IA) in the consolation game for fifth place. Though they had lost the chance to secure the national title, the Mustangs still brought their competitive edge and enjoyed a tense first half, leading to a 40-40 tie at half time. Regional Player of the Year Breana Bey shone with 18 points, seven rebounds and two assists; meanwhile Guard Aaliyah Mercer added 13 points, three assists and two steals. Freshmen Shania Johnson continued to excel after a week of stellar play, bringing 15 points, four assists and three steals to the Mustangs' final game. However, despite an energetic and Impressive effort from the Monroe women, Kirkwood managed to hit a big three-pointer with under two minutes of the game remaining and secured a 70-64 lead. Their next set of free throws saw them edge their way to a 77-71 victory over the Mustangs.
After a dazzling performance at the national tournament that resulted in an accrual of 70 points, 20 assists and 12 steals, freshman Shaina Johnson was deservedly selected as a First Team all-tournament player. Congratulations to her, and the rest of the Mustangs team for another great season! We can't wait to see what the next one has in store.