Two former high school athletes from Surry County will be playing for a national championship next week.
For the second year in a row, the women’s basketball teams from conference rivals Pensacola Christian College and Bob Jones University were among those chosen to compete in the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) national championship tournament. Each of the two schools includes a former Surry Homeschool Lady Patriots guard in its starting lineup.
A year ago, both schools made the tournament as well, with Bob Jones making it for the first time ever after winning the NCCAA Division II South Regional tournament for the first time in school history. The Lady Bruins probably would not have made the field had they not won the tournament, but in so doing, former Surry stars Hannah Tompkins and Sydney Bedsaul both competed in the Big Dance, Tompkins ending her career on the big stage and Bedsaul wrapping up her sophomore season there.
As for PCC, they had been on a hot streak going into the 2016-17 regional tournament, and earned an at-large bid even after losing to Bob Jones. This success sent Jessica Boyd, another ex-Lady Patriot, to the dance as well.
This season, Boyd and her Lady Eagles hit the NCCAA South like a load of bricks.
Pensacola Christian posted a perfect 8-0 record in regional play, then headed down to the regional tournament in Jacksonville, Fla. as the favorite to win the title. The Lady Eagles pummeled Toccoa Falls College 80-43 in the semifinals, then downed the host school 75-70 in the championship game. Trinity, which was playing its own gym, needed to win the tournament crown in order to have its dance card punched, and the Tigers had an early six-point lead. However, Pensacola stormed back to take the lead by halftime, and led the rest of the way, with Boyd playing a key role. In the third quarter, the Lady Tigers had whittled PCC’s lead back to 55-50, and at that point Boyd swished back-to-back 3-pointers to get the Lady Eagles’ lead back to nine. Then, with 3:39 left in the game and Trinity within 67-64, she struck again, nailing another three. Boyd ended the game with 14 points and a team-high eight rebounds.
For the season, the 5’7” junior forward is averaging 13.3 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. She was named as the Student-Athlete of the Week for the entire NCCAA for the week of Feb. 5, during a week when she led Pensacola to three wins and had a season-high 24 points in an earlier victory over Trinity.
“Jess has been a key leader for this team all year,” said PCC head coach Jared Sellars. “Our team really goes when Jess is being aggressive on the offensive end of the court.”
The Lady Eagles have won nine straight games and 13 out of 15 since ending a five-game losing streak on Jan. 13 in an 86-63 win over Johnson (Tenn.), where Boyd led the team with 16 points and grabbed seven rebounds.
Pensacola Christian (19-10) is the No. 2 seed in the national tournament, behind only Arlington (Tex.) Baptist University (17-6). Both schools earned an automatic bye into the semifinals, on Friday March 9. Bob Jones, as an at-large team, will play in the opening round on Thursday, March 8 against 17-14 Emmaus Bible College (Dubuque, Iowa), with the winner to face Arlington. PCC will face the winner of a contest between Kentucky Christian and Manhattan (Kan.) Christian.
The semifinal winners will play for the NCCAA Division II national championship on Saturday, March 10 at 3 p.m. All of the games will be played on the campus of Bob Jones University in Greenville, S.C., perhaps giving the Lady Bruins a bit of a boost as they seek their first-ever title. However, it should be a comfortable venue for PCC as well, seeing as how they play there every year.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.