By Shawn Wansley
JCJC Sports Information Director
CLINTON – Simply put, it was one of the all-time great shooting performances in the history of the Region 23 Tournament.
Alexis Tolefree (Conway, Arkansas) scored 50 points to lead No. 5 Jones County Junior College to a 98-74 win over Copiah-Lincoln in the tournament championship game here Friday night at the A.E. Wood Coliseum on the campus of Mississippi College.
The victory sends JCJC to the NJCAA Division I National Tournament in Lubbock, Texas, for the second straight year. The tournament will be held March 19-24 at the RIP Griffin Center on the campus of Lubbock Christian University.
The tournament field will be announced during a live webcast at 10 a.m. on Monday at www.njcaatv.com.
But the story of the title game was Tolefree.
The Ole Miss signee was 12-of-22 from 3-point range – several of those from past 30 feet – and was 4-of-4 on two-point attempts and 6-of-7 from the free throw line. She made here final 3-pointer with 3:02 left and left the court at the point after a timeout by JCJC head coach Missy Bilderback.
"Obviously, she had a phenomenal night," Bilderback said. "It was kind of a once in a lifetime deal to get 50, so we let her go ahead and do that."
Tolefree credited her teammates with making the night possible.
"My teammates set me up really well the whole game," she said. "I felt like it was going in every play and my teammates had the confidence in me to shoot it. Without them, I would not have hit any of them."
Tolefree's 50 points is believed to be the second most in a JCJC game. Tanecka Carey scored 53 for the Lady Bobcats vs. Co-Lin during the 2010-11 season.
Overall, Bilderback could not have asked for any more from her Lady Bobcats.
"I'm real proud of the team," she said. "We came out from the beginning and had a lot of people make plays. A lot of people stepped up. We had some foul trouble early and I thought our depth really came into play.
"Co-Lin has a great team and they are, obviously, extremely well-coached. We just feel blessed to win it. I just wanted our kids to be able to experience Lubbock. We have worked really hard for this and it's just fun to see them reap the benefits and have a chance to go."
Tolefree scored the game's first seven points and the Lady Bobcats were on their way.
Leading 21-15 late in the first quarter, JCJC went on a 12-0 run to take control. A Maya Jones (Northwest Rankin) basket gave the Lady Bobcats a 33-15 lead with 7:18 left in the first half.
JCJC would lead 46-31 at halftime.
The Lady Bobcats ran the lead to 67-41 with 3:40 left in the third quarter when Tolefree converted a 4-point play.
Jones led 74-55 entering the final quarter.
Chrystal Ezechukwu (Stone Mountain, Georgia) had 15 points and a game-high 16 rebounds for JCJC. Nique Cherry (Heidelberg) finished with 10 points. K.K. Tassin (Terry) had 8 assists.
Bilderback praised her players for their performance.
"To go back-to-back state and regional champions is phenomenal," she said. "That just speaks to the talent we have. We have great players and great players make a coach look real good. I am just real proud of our group and we are excited for them. We are just going to go out to Lubbock, have a good time and see if we can win some ballgames."
Alexus Holt had 22 points for Co-Lin and Karry Callahan had 21.
JCJC was 34-of-77 from the field (13-of-30 from 3-point range) for 44 percent. The Lady Bobcats were 17-of-22 from the free throw line.
Co-Lin was 25-of-66 from the field (4-of-16 from 3-point range) for 38 percent. The Lady Wolves were 20-of-22 from the foul line.
JCJC outrebounded Co-Lin by a whopping 59-29 margin. The Lady Bobcats had 22 assists and 15 turnovers, while Co-Lin had 12 assists and 12 turnovers.
Now, the Lady Bobcats will rest for a bit and get ready to find out who they will play in Texas.
Last year in their first-ever national tournament appearance, JCJC went 2-1 and finished in the Elite Eight.
Both Bilderback and Tolefree says that experience will be beneficial for the Lady Bobcats.
"They understand what to expect," Bilderback said. "We can't wait and it's going to be a lot of fun."
"Having that experience of being there already and as a sophomore now, I think I will be calmer and help my teammates to go further this year than we did last year," Tolefree added.
It's the second straight season for JCJC to win both the MACJC and Region 23 Tournaments – quite an accomplishment for the Lady Bobcats.
"Coach motivated us all week by telling us we could make history winning region and state back-to-back," Tolefree said. "That is what we came here to do."
JCJC is now 26-3 and has won 10 straight games.
Co-Lin ends the year at 24-5.