TEAM DEFENSE: Temple College sophomore guard Taylor Phouangaphayvong (2) defends Southwestern Christian's Lonniqua Johnson during the Lady Leopards' 95-57 win over the Lady Rams on Wednesday night at TC Gym. Looking on are Temple's Kirsten Zaruba (left), Amaya West, Starr Jacobs and Jordyn Carter. The Lady Leopards (5-1, 1-1) recorded their first Northern Texas Junior College Athletic Conference victory with first-year head coach Amber Taylor. Jacobs scored 23 points and Carter had 18 for Temple, which will host first-place Hill (7-0, 2-0) on Saturday at 2 p.m. (Photo by Greg Wille, TempleBeltonSports.com)
By GREG WILLE
In its first three games this season, all against overmatched non-conference opponents, the Temple College women's basketball team didn't really need sophomore forward Starr Jacobs and sophomore guard Jordyn Carter in its lineup as it cruised to a trio of blowout wins.
But now that the grind of conference competition has arrived for first-year head coach Amber Taylor and her Lady Leopards, they're certainly glad to have the skilled, aggressive Jacobs and Carter – who missed those three games because of what Taylor called “following COVID-19 quarantine protocols” – back on the court and doing what they do best.
Jacobs scored 17 of her game-high 23 points in the first half and Carter scored 12 of her 18 points after halftime to help propel Temple to a runaway 95-57 victory over turnover-plagued Southwestern Christian College in the Lady Leopards' Northern Texas Junior College Athletic Conference home opener Wednesday night at TC Gym.
It was the first conference win with Temple for Taylor, who was hired last year to succeed longtime TC coach Kim Sebek after serving three seasons as head coach at league rival Cisco. The Lady Leopards (5-1 overall, 1-1 NTJCAC) overcame 16 first-half turnovers as they bounced back from their conference-opening 81-66 loss at Ranger on Saturday.
“Obviously they're two of the better players in the conference, so when you lose them, other people have to step up,” Taylor said of Jacobs and Carter, TC's top returning players from last season. “We played three games without those two and they've been back for three games. It's the year that it is. When you lose great players like that, it's a big void to fill. It's nice to have them back. It's great to have them back, especially now that we're in conference.”
Freshman guard Kirsten Zaruba made three of Temple's four 3-point baskets and scored 11 points off the bench. The Lady Leopards also got nine points each from sophomore guard Alex Maresca and sophomore forward Jordan Walker and eight from sophomore guard Kamani Jones.
Nakeitra Mack scored 18 points and Traciona Russell had 13 for Southwestern Christian, which is 0-3 both overall and in NTJCAC play. The Lady Rams committed 26 turnovers, made only three 3-point shots and were 14-of-26 (53.8 percent) on free throws.
FIRST CONFERENCE WIN IS IN THE BOOKS: In her first season as head coach of the Temple College women's basketball team, Amber Taylor recorded her first Northern Texas Junior College Athletic Conference victory with TC as the Lady Leopards rolled to a 95-57 win over Southwestern Christian on Wednesday night at TC Gym. Temple is 5-1 overall and 1-1 in league play. (Photo by Greg Wille, TempleBeltonSports.com)
Taylor was impressed by how her squad responded after its disappointing defeat at Ranger, where the Lady Leopards were outscored 21-8 in the second quarter – the only period that wasn't close – and struggled to a 22-for-72 shooting performance (30.6 percent) from the field.
“We did not play well at Ranger, so we knew that we needed to focus on us and they definitely responded very well tonight,” said Taylor, whose team led SWCC 42-15 at halftime. “The great part about us is that I have 13 players who have bought in, and when that happens, that's usually a pretty good formula for success.”
The key factor for Temple early in its home conference debut was its ability to create turnovers and turn those Lady Rams mistakes into baskets. Southwestern Christian committed 10 turnovers in the opening 5½ minutes as TC cranked up its defensive pressure.
The Lady Rams took their only lead on Mack's 17-foot jump shot 33 seconds into the game. Walker scored inside to push Temple ahead for good, then made a turnaround 8-footer for a 5-2 lead before TC grabbed a steal and Jacobs scored a layup off a pass from sophomore point guard Kennedi Green.
The 6-foot-2, agile Jacobs then scored off an inbound lob pass and put in another bucket off a Green dish before Jacobs scored her fourth consecutive basket on a scoop move in the lane, completing a 12-0 Lady Leopards run for a 13-2 lead with 4 minutes gone.
Green entered the evening ranked second in NJCAA Division I in assists with 8.2 per game, and against SWCC she displayed her deft passing skills by setting up teammates for numerous baskets.
“As a team we're leading the nation in assists, and as a team we're second in steals in the nation. Our defense leads to our offense a whole lot,” said Taylor, whose Lady Leopards collected 14 turnovers in the first quarter and 19 in the first half. “When you're in a halfcourt set and you have a great facilitator like Kennedi Green or Jordyn Carter, they love to pass and they love to get everybody involved.
“We've got players who can score the ball. It's not just one or two. I've got a team full of kids who can score the ball.”
Two Jacobs free throws and a close-range bank shot by sophomore post Amaya West pushed TC to a 17-8 lead after the first quarter. Maresca then gave the Lady Leopards a boost off the bench, driving the baseline for a bucket and making an open 3-pointer from the left wing for a 22-8 advantage.
Then it was the versatile Carter's turn. The 5-7 combination guard scored a hoop in transition, made another driving bucket and scored off a steal. Temple's extended 16-2 run also included six points by Jacobs, a layup by sophomore guard Taylor Phouangaphayvong and Zaruba's open 3 from the right corner en route to a 42-15 halftime lead.
The Lady Leopards had the game well under control, but Carter proceeded to deliver a highlight-reel package in the third quarter's first 3 minutes to seal the outcome. She made an on-the-run banker and completed the three-point play, scored off a Green pass and turned another steal into a layup.
And to cap her flurry, Carter made a fast-break layup while being fouled and shouted, “And one!” as the ball dropped through the net. She hit the free throw for the three-point play, and her spurt of 10 points in a 2:34 span gave Temple an insurmountable 58-17 lead. The Lady Leopards led 76-35 after outscoring Southwestern Christian 34-20 in the third quarter.
“She was going crazy, and you didn't see that in the first half,” Taylor said of Carter, who scored only seven points at Ranger on 1-of-12 shooting from the field. “I think everybody has something different in their game that they show at different times.”
The Lady Leopards now will turn their attention toward a more challenging opponent. Temple hosts NTJCAC co-leader Hill (7-0, 2-0) at 2 p.m. Saturday.
“I will start preparing for Hill tonight and start watching film. I always just take one game at a time, so now that this one's over my assistant (Nyla Cosby) and I will start Hill preparation tonight and we'll start implementing that tomorrow in practice,” Taylor said. “If we can just continue to play the way that we played today, it'll be good. Hill is definitely one of the better teams in our conference, so with them coming in here we're going to have to play a great game. I know we can, but we're going to have to put two games in a row together."
WOMEN'S COLLEGE BASKETBALL
Northern Texas Junior College
Temple College 95,
Southwestern Christian College 57
SWCC 8 7 20 22 – 57
Temple 17 25 34 19 – 95
SWCC (0-3, 0-3 NTJCAC) – Nakeitra Mack 18, Traciona Russell 13, Kayla Coleman 8, Ja'Bria Simmons 8, Ja'Neicia Kendrick 6, Lonnique Johnson 2, Taylor Lowe 2.
Temple (5-1, 1-1 NTJCAC) – Starr Jacobs 23, Jordyn Carter 18, Kirsten Zaruba 11, Jordan Walker 9, Alex Maresca 9, Kamani Jones 8, Amaya West 6, Taylor Phouangaphayvong 4, Haley Rucker 4, Kennedi Green 2, Aimee Busby 1.
3-point goals – Southwestern Christian 3 (Mack 2, Kendrick 1); Temple 4 (Zaruba 3, Maresca 1).
Free throws – Southwestern Christian 14-26; Temple 17-22.