Sports, UCM Sports

Jennies dominate Central region, punch ticket to Elite Eight

The Jennies celebrate their 81-42 victory over Augustana and Central Region Championship Monday in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

For the first time since 1989, Jennies basketball has a regional championship following an 81-42 rout of top seed and host team Augustana.

Despite the early exit in the MIAA Tournament just a week and a half ago and the disappointment of not being named the host of the central region, the Jennies put together what was likely their strongest effort all season.

The Jens came out looking for blood as they opened a 9-0 lead. After five minutes, it was 17-2 UCM and forward Megan Skaggs had made three triples. By the end of the first quarter, the lead was 17 points leaving the Vikings and their home crowd stunned.

“It wasn’t what I was expecting, we figured it’d be a close back and forth game,” Skaggs said. “We silenced their crowd early and our crowd was great so it was nice to win in front of them.”

The second quarter was more of the same with Skaggs hitting a three to cap an 8-0 run that put the Jennies up 32-7. The Vikings managed to score 10 points in the second but faced a daunting 42-17 deficit at halftime.

The Jens didn’t let off the gas in the second half as they continued to pour it on the Vikings and the lead flirted with 40 points throughout the third quarter. The Vikings shooting performance could only be described as freezing cold, highlighted by 17 percent in the third quarter. They would finish shooting 24 percent from the field and 26 percent from three.

The fourth quarter began with the Vikings cutting the lead down to 30, but the Jens immediately rolled off a 12-0 run and the lead eclipsed 40. The game was never in doubt for the Jens after the dominant first quarter, Augustana never climbed within 25 points after halftime.

Skaggs finished with a game-high 23 points and shot a scalding 4-5 from three-point range. Her performance throughout the regional merited an All-Tournament Team honor.

“I’m playing with a lot of confidence and I’m confident I can keep shooting well in the Elite Eight,” Skaggs said.

Guard Paige Redmond was her usual self and then some scoring 22 on five made triples. She added seven rebounds and three assists to her already impressive stat line. Redmond was named the Tournament MVP and All-Central Region First Team.

Skaggs and forward Kayonna Lee led the Jens with nine rebounds apiece.

The Jens dismantled the Vikings full-court press that averages 20 turnovers a game only committing 11. Central Missouri held the advantage on the boards, outrebounding the Vikings 45-29.

The Jennies will return to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, next week to compete against the other regional champions in the Elite Eight. The Jens first opponent will be Lubbock Christian University out of Lubbock, Texas. The Lady Chaps are 31-1 with their only loss belonging to a top-seeded Ashland team that hasn’t lost a regular-season game since 2016. That loss came in November, but hasn’t prevented the Lady Chaps from winning 25 straight since.

“We haven’t looked at them specifically, but their only loss being Ashland says a lot about them,” Skaggs said. “We’re not going to come into this game scared.”

The Jennies are scheduled to meet the Lady Chaps at 1 p.m. Monday, March 19, at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls.

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