By CINDY CROSBY
The Salkehatchie Lady Indians are headed to the 2021 NJCAA Division II Women’s Basketball Championship at Catawba Valley’s Tarlton Complex in Hickory, North Carolina April 20-24. The Lady Indians enter the tournament seeded in the No. 10 spot in a field of 16 teams, 15 of which garnered automatic bids and one at-large qualifier. The Lady Indians are one of two undefeated teams to enter tournament play (18-0, 12-0) and will face No. 7 seed Arkansas State University Mid-South (ASU Mid-South) Tuesday April 20 at 1 p.m.
Salkehatchie, competing in Region X, was ranked No. 9 in the nation in the final NJCAA Division II poll of the season. They have won 18 games in a row and are averaging 99.6 points per game and 41 rebounds. It will be the first appearance for the Lady Indians in the NJCAA Division II Women’s Basketball Championship.
The Lady Greyhounds (22-1, 9-1), compete in Region II, enter the tournament ranked thirteenth in the final NJCAA Division II poll of the season. They are on an 11-game win streak and are averaging 73.2 points per game and 43.9 rebounds. It was the first District title for the Lady Greyhounds and will be their first trip to the tournament.
In a Salkehatchie press release last week, first-year head coach Olivia Gaines stated, “I couldn’t be prouder of this team and the work they put in. Winning this region championship means the world to me. It was a challenging year - adjusting to being a head coach, learning to deal with every aspect of a program and finding ways to motivate the women in academics, living situations, life situations as well as basketball and all the adjustments caused by COVID. But it was all worth it. From day one, I knew we had enough talent to make things happen, but I questioned our mental toughness. They answered my question. They are mentally tough. We are looking forward to nationals.”
Director of Athletics Jeremy Joye said the following, ““I am extremely proud of the work that these ladies have put in and all that they have overcome as a team this year. Seeing them grow and mesh together on the court has been quite remarkable and I was blessed to have a front row seat to their accomplishments. Coach Gaines has led them in a way that has made USC Salkehatchie very proud, and she has accomplished so much this year as a first-time head coach.”
The Lady Indians departed Sunday afternoon for North Carolina after a send-off in Walterboro. Coach Gaines thanked the supporters for being there and stated they were excited to begin competition in the tournament. “It is our goal to bring home a championship to this gym and community,” said Gaines.
With a win in Tuesday’s game, the Lady Indians face the winner of Lake Land (No. 2) and Lackawanna (No. 15) Wednesday evening at 9 p.m. Should Salkehatchie move into the loser’s bracket, they would play Thursday at 9:00 a.m.
Tuesday’s game will air on https://www.njcaa.org/network.