ENMU women heading to D-II national tournament
Greyhounds to face Texas A&M-Commerce Friday in Lubbock
March 11, 2020
PORTALES — The Eastern New Mexico women’s basketball team stepped off a bus from Frisco, Texas on Sunday, confident but not convinced they’d have at least one more road trip on the season.
Less than an hour later, what energy the Lone Star Conference tournament and the bus trip hadn’t beaten out of them went to celebrating their next trip to Lubbock.
The Greyhounds (22-9) discovered Sunday night they had qualified for their second-straight Division II national tournament and third in four years. They’ll be the seventh seed in the South Central Regional, facing No. 2 Texas A&M-Commerce (28-3). Tip-off is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. MDT Friday at the Rip Griffin Center on the campus of Lubbock Christian University.
The defending national champion Chaps, which claimed the LSC tournament title Sunday over the Lions, are the South Central’s top seed and receives hosting duties.
There was no “we’re on the TV screen” moment typical at most watch parties as the selection livestream at A.J.’s Wings dropped out twice — possibly due to everybody piggybacking on the restaurant’s wifi to stream it on their own phones. The cheering began after coach Josh Prock beamed, “Everybody’s already seen it anyway; we’re in.”
Senior post Natalie DeLonge, who transferred to the Green and Silver for her last year of eligibility after graduating early from Western Oregon, will be making her first national tournament appearance.
“I’m really excited,” said DeLonge, who came on strong late in the season to garner an All-LSC second-team nod. “I always grew up watching March Madness on TV. To be a part of it, knowing anything can happen and every game can be my last, I’m going to give it everything I’ve got.”
In other Friday first-round games, the Chaps face No. 8 Angelo State, third-seed West Texas A&M takes on Western Colorado and the 4-5 game features Colorado Mesa and Westminster.
Tickets are available online at lcu.edu/events/tickets. Tickets are $10 and cover both the ENMU game and the 11 a.m. MDT contest between WT and Western Colorado.
Even though the LSC is Division-II’s largest conference, it was hard seeing its teams getting six of the eight slots — even in a two-conference region.
With three nationally-ranked teams in Commerce, West Texas A&M and Lubbock Christian, it was likely ENMU, Tarleton State or Angelo State would be the odd man out.
The Greyhounds fell to Texas A&M-Commerce 68-59 in the LSC tournament semifinals, but got there with a quarterfinal victory over Tarleton State to split the season series. Prock said it was a bonus knowing Tarleton State, which is moving up to Division-I next season, ended its Division-II era with a loss to ENMU.
“It was absolutely close,” Prock said. “I really did think Thursday with Tarleton was going to be a play-in game. The winner was going to be in, the loser was probably not automatically out but had a hard road ahead of them.”
Junior post Alivia Lewis, a second-team and all-defensive LSC selection, said the team felt confident its season would be extended after Thursday and that a Friday win is difficult but not impossible.
“I thought we came out really slow,” Lewis said of the Saturday loss to the Lions. “We didn’t play our game; their posts were killing us underneath. We need to start quicker and just take advantage of our size.”
The Lions lead the season series 2-0, including a 73-59 home win Feb. 20. Prep work started Tuesday, with Prock giving the team Monday off to rest.
“We had good shots; they just didn’t fall,” Prock said. “Our girls competed the whole game. Even at their place, we were down seven with 7:00 to go. They’ll be ready, and so will we. It will be hotly contested.”
Friday’s winner moves on to a 6:30 p.m. MDT Saturday semifinal. The regional championship will be Monday night.