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Lady Senators claim 10th straight TCCAA championship

Lady Senators claim 10th straight TCCAA championship

MORRISTOWN, Tenn. — Walters State wrapped up its 10th consecutive Tennessee Community College Athletic Association women's basketball regular season championship with a 68-51 triumph over second-place Motlow State Saturday afternoon at 'Z' Buda Gymnasium.


The 17th-ranked Lady Senators posted their 21st victory against four losses and remained perfect after 13 conference outings. Motlow State fell to 16-10 for the season and 8-5 in TCCAA action.


It makes the 12th championship in the last 13 seasons for Coach Dave Kragel's Lady Senators who have lost just once in their last 160 conference games.


Zacharyia Esmon came off the bench to lead the Walters State attack with 20 points with 16 of those coming after intermission. Jamya Rogers added a dozen, Dulcy Fankam Mendjiadeu had 10 and Derrinesha Jackson nine.


Motlow's Janna Lewis, coming off a 40-point performance the night before, topped the visitors with 20 while Starasia Bell-Freeman chipped in 13.


Walters State trailed only twice at 4-3 and 6-5 and led by just nine entering the fourth quarter. However, Esmon scored the first eight points as the Lady Senators opened the final frame on an 11-2 run to break the game open.


Lady Senators' coach Dave Kragel stated, "Motlow makes you play ugly because they run all kinds of traps at you and everything. You have to move the basketball better than we did today.


"I certainly don't have any complaints about how hard our kids played," he added. "It's tough to play a night game and then be back in here playing at 2 the next afternoon. It's a good win. Now, we just have to keep getting better."


Kragel said, "I thought Z played really well. She rebounded well, she shot the ball and she had a couple of steals that we got layups off of as a result. I was really pleased with her."


The coach said his team is doing things somewhat differently this year, mainly playing a lot of zone defense. "Because of our size, we're so big that I can't always go out and get in a man defense the way I like to do. In the zone, we have to find their shooters and get out on them.


"But we're learning to do some different things out of it and we did a good job today, especially in the second half."


In talking about 10 straight titles, Kragel said, "It's all about the kids. They're the reason for that because they buy into what we're talking about. This year we're doing things completely different than we did last year and I'm just happy we've been able to get it through to them.


"It's because of them that we win. We've logged a lot of miles running in this gym this year."


The Lady Senators made 27 of 60 from the floor for 45 percent on Saturday including 6 of 16 three-pointers. The Lady Bucks were ice cold, making only 18 of 63 for 28.6 percent. They made just two of 20 shots behind the arc.


Rogers had eight rebounds and Esmon seven to lead Walters State to a 38-35 backboard advantage. Lewis grabbed nine stray shots and Bell-Freeman eight for Motlow State. The Lady Senators' Brianna Dixon dished out a dozen assists.


Bell-Freeman's bucket with 4:15 left in the opening stanza gave the Lady Bucks their final lead before Jackson had a fast  break layup and Esmon connected on a short jumper for Walters State.


Lewis scored for the visitors but Diamond Forest and Alexis Trice hit the final basket of the quarter to put the Lady Senators up 13-8 at the first break.


After Lewis hit two charity tosses to open the second frame, Mendjiadeu fired in seven straight points for Walters State to push the margin to double figures at 20-10.


It was 29-21 when Rogers hit a layup and Dixon converted a three-point play for a 34-21 halftime lead.


The Lady Bucks had an 18-14 margin in the third quarter when Lewis scored nine points to trail by 48-39 entering the final 10 minutes.


However, Esmon hit a three and then a free throw to start the fourth and after Bell-Freeman scored for Motlow, she nailed another long one and another charity toss. Rogers added a foul shot and Dixon hit a jumper for a 59-41 lead with 5:55 to play and the visitors never got closer than 14 the rest of the way.