By Mike Monahan

HICKORY, N.C. – While the second-seeded Lake Land women’s basketball team is making its third appearance, its first-round opponent Lackawanna is no stranger to the NJCAA Division II National Tournament.

The Falcons are making their third under coach Joya Whittington, including 2019 when they finished fourth after going 27-9. It will be Lackawanna’s seventh appearance overall.

Lake Land also qualified in 2020, 2012 and 2001.

Some quick facts about Lackawanna:

* The school has a student enrollment of 2,000 and is located in Scranton, Pa.

* The Lackawanna team includes eight freshmen and five sophomores.

* The Falcons, who finished No. 19 in the nation in the final poll and are seeded 15th.

* The team is ranked fifth nationally in offensive rebounds at 18.9 and fifth overall in rebounds at 48.6.

* The Falcons are also eighth in the nation in blocks per game at 8.4.

* The Falcons average 77.1 points per game which is 14th in the nation.

* Lackawanna is fourth in field goals attempted per game at 80.4.

* The Falcons are 12-4 and are 6-4 away from home.

Lackawanna started the season with six wins, including a 111-102 victory over Jamestown Community College. After a 66-58 loss to Union County College, the Falcons answered with a 73-63 victory over Union County College and beat Harcum College 77-66 in overtime before losing to Harcum,. 71-59. After two victories the Falcons have split their last four games, falling twice to No. 29 Union County College, 92-83 and 73-42.

“They play very fast and score well in transition,” said Lake Land coach Dave Johnson. “They start three guards and they are all mainly perimeter players who average in double-figures. They also start two forwards that average around 8.5 points per game.”

Lake Land (21-2) enters on a 12-game winning streak during which it has averaged 66.8 points per game and allowed just 52. 6 points – a 14.2 point margin. The Lakers have not lost since Feb. 25 to Parkland, 77-67, a team it beat 70-56 on March 25. After starting the season winning the first three games they lost to Wabash Valley 61-55 before reeling off six consecutive wins, including a 70-55 win over perennial power Illinois Central College at East Peoria.

Lake Land won the Region 24, District A title with an easy 80-50 win over North Central Missouri on April 20, while the Falcons advanced with a 69-62 triumph over Niagara Community College to win the District East B Championship. Lackawanna outscored the Thunder Wolves 20-9 in the fourth to win it. 

Jamia Eaddy, a sophomore, leads the Falcons with an average of 16.9 points per game. Some other key scoring leaders.

Nya Morris15.3 ppg
Gabby Jackson9.7 ppg
Briel Herbert8.8 ppg
Kiena Williams8.3 ppg

Eaddy averages 9.5 rebounds per game, Jackson averages 3.5 assists per game, and Williams averages 2.9 steals and 2.8 blocks per game – all tops on the team.

Lackawanna allows 68.1 points per game. 

“From what I have seen they are mainly man-to-man on defense,” said Johnson. “They will pick you up man-to-man as they want to play fast paces. Most of the videos I saw they shot the ball in 10-12 seconds of the shot clock on most possessions.”

Like Lake Land, Lackawanna regularly plays 10-11 players. 

“Lackawanna plays at the pace that we like, but they are probably more one-on-one in transition whereas if we don’t have a good shot we will pull it out and set up our offense,” Johnson said. “We have to do a good job of taking quality shots and staying balanced in defensive positioning so we don’t help them in their transition game.”

Kamaria Gant leads Lake Land in scoring at 15.1 points per game, followed by Abby Weis at 12.8. Weis overcame a fractured tibia and then sprained the same ankle missing a total of seven weeks from late January to the first week in March. 

“For me it stunk to sit on the bench and not be able to be out and contribute in any way I could,” said Weis. “Luckily, the whole time I was out the team performed really well and got the job done, only losing once (Parkland). Being back and being able to contribute definitely makes me feel a lot better.” 

Karrington Krable is next in scoring for the Lakers at 7 ppg.

Tresoir Newson leads in rebounds (6.5), Harley Barry is tops in assists (4.6) and Newson leads has a team-high 2.5 steals a game.

Some Lake Land team stats:

* Average points per game scored: 71

* Average points per game allowed: 54.3

* Scoring differential: +16.7 ppg

* FT percentage: 69.7% (8th nationally)

* Fouls committed: 1.7

* 3-pointers made per game: 7.8 (10th nationally)

“We have to do a good job of cutting off their penetration,” Johnson said. “They use that to set up their offense. We have to have good transition defense. Those are the two big keys for us.”The game will be on the NJCAA network for $30 you get a tournament pass or for $10 you can see every game that day.

Lake Land left on a chartered bus Saturday afternoon after practicing in the morning and split the trip up staying in Nashville on Saturday night before driving the final 5 1/2 hours to Hickory on Sunday. 

Elizabeth Buescher, averaging 3.6 points and 1.7 rebounds a game coming off the bench, says she ha received many phone calls and texts wishing the team luck and congratulations on making it to nationals. 

“It really shows how much the community supports us,” said Buescher. “ And how much basketball means to people.”