Slow start dooms Santa Fe College

Basketball through net

The 2022-23 season came to an end on Wednesday night for the Santa Fe College women’s basketball team.

And it finished with a dud.

Top seed Eastern Florida State College held No. 8 seed SF to a season-low in points in an 82-34 quarterfinal victory at the FCSAA/NJCAA Region VIII state tournament at Northwest Florida State College in Niceville.

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The Titans, who are ranked No. 2 in the country in the NJCAA Division-I rankings, raced out to a 17-2 lead after the opening period.

The Saints struggled from the floor, hitting just 1-of-13 shots (7.7%).

“I think it was the difference in the game for us because we play with so much energy so when we start so slow and we’re not scoring very well, we just didn’t recover very well and go into our second and third layer,” said Santa Fe College coach Chanda Stebbins. “Even though we prepared for it, we were still surprised by it. That’s just a credit to them. They are a very good team.”

Three players scored in double figures for the Titans (29-1), led by Elli Garnett with a game-high 18 points.

Courtesy of Mackenzie Beck/SF College Athletics Santa Fe’s Isabella Reynolds (4) led the Saints with eight points on Wednesday against Eastern Florida State College.

Meanwhile, Saints leading scorer Malea Brown, who was averaging 20.2 points per game, was held to a season-low two points.

“It’s another stage, and they raised their level,” Stebbins said. “Credit them for raising their level.”

SF scored the first two of the game on a basket by Se’lah Reddick (6 points, 4 rebounds, 3 steals).

However, EFSC scored the next 25 points and led 25-2 with 8:03 to play in the first half.

They dominated the Saints (13-16) on the glass, outrebounding SF, 56-19, with Isimenme Ozzy-Momodu pulling down 15 rebounds and Garnett finishing with a double-double (10 rebounds).

The Saints were also outscored 37-11 off the bench and 15-1 in fast break points.

Sophomore Isabella Reynolds led SF with eight points, followed by sophomore Triniti Youngblood and freshman Khaleah Douglas with seven points each. Youngblood also led the way with six rebounds.

It was the fourth time this season that the Saints lost to the Titans, who advanced to the semifinals on Friday at 1 p.m. (CST) against No. 6 seed Florida Southwestern State College, which upset No. 3 Gulf Coast State College (No. 9 NJCAA), 71-65.

With their first state tournament appearance since COVID-19 in 2020, Stebbins is optimistic about the future.

“This is a really good group of girls,” Stebbins said. “These girls have strong character and they’re good kids so they’re fun to coach. We just have to get to the point where we’re working at the level that we did before Covid. I think we took steps forward this year to do that, but we obviously have more steps to go forward.”

Stebbins knows what the program needs to rise higher.

“I need to recruit some more size to help them,” she said. “We’ve got some commitments that will hopefully sign this coming week which will help. But at the end of the day, Eastern just played better than us and we have to continue to recruit better, get better, and work harder, and do the things that great programs do.”  

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