Johnson County wins national title on Brown's buzzer beater
May 4, 2015
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. – Johnson County freshman guard Alexis Brown knocked down a buzzer beater jumper as time expired to give the Lady Cavaliers a 66-64 victory over top-ranked Parkland College in the 2015 NJCAA Division II Women’s National Championship at JCCC Gymnasium on Saturday night. Brown’s game winning shot sent a wave of students onto the court for a celebration.
This is Johnson County’s second national championship and the first for head coach Ben Conrad, who also picked up his 300th career win in the process.
Tied at 64-64 with 21 seconds remaining, freshman Kayonna Lee grabbed a crucial offensive rebound off a JCCC miss, giving Lady Cavaliers the opportunity to take the final shot. After a timeout, freshman guard Erica Nelson found Brown on the right wing. She dribbled right, stepped back and let it fly.
During the timeout Conrad said he debated between having Nieka Wheeler, Brown or even Nelson take the final shot, but ultimately chose Brown.
“I just felt Lex in that closely guarded situation was our best chance,” Conrad said. “We ran a little box iso (isolation) play we used to run a lot. She made a big time shot in the biggest moment of her basketball life.”
Brown finished with 14 points off the bench for the Lady Cavaliers. She was 5-for-13 from the field with two 3-pointers, and 2-of-3 at the line.
Johnson County was led offensively by Wheeler’s 16-point effort. She was 5-of-14 from the field, with two treys, and hit 4-of-5 free throws. She averaged 19.5 points and 8.0 rebounds in JCCC’s four games and was chosen the tournament’s MVP.
“She is a special kid, special person, great leader and warrior,” said Conrad “She will be a successful person in her life because of her character.”
Nelson finished with 11 points and five assists, and Lee was the game’s top rebounder with 11, including six on the offensive end. Lee also grabbed a key offensive board and kick out that led to a Brown three-pointer that gave Johnson County a 64-61 lead with 1:38 to play.
Johnson County shot just 37 percent in the first half, but hit six of its nine 3-pointers in that half to built a 10-point lead with six to play. Parkland fought back and JCCC only led 34-31 at halftime.
The first four minutes of the second half saw the Cobras erase its three-point deficit and turn it into a five point advantage, but from there the two teams exchanged six lead changes and four ties.
“Parkland was just an extremely difficult team to play in that final,” Conrad said. “They are one of the tougher teams both mentally and physically I’ve personally faced in my career.”
Johnson County’ victory ended Parkland’s 35-game winning streak, which had not lost since its season opener. Nadine Vaughn led the Cobras with 20 points. She was 7-of-9 from the field and a perfect 5-of-5 at the line. All-tournament picks Laura Litchfield and Hannah Wascher followed with 16 and 14 points.
Johnson County won its final 12 games of the season and finished with a final record of 34-2, setting a new season mark for victories. Conrad now has a record of 207-32 in sevens seasons at JCCC and has a strung together six consecutive 30-win seasons.
“This was special not only for our players and coaches, but for the students and fans that came out and supported us, and this campus community,” said Conrad. “All of Johnson County and Kansas can be proud of what our kids did in this tournament. But we don’t define our teams based on what happens in 40-minutes in March, never had and never will. We’ve had some special people it did not work out for in March. That being said, it is special and such a validation of our process and how we approach our day-to-day work in this program.”