Saints roll into semifinals

Te’Nae Romain of North Country hits the floor while battling for possession with Passaic County’s Jada Camacho during Thursday night’s NJCAA Division III quarterfinal game in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. (Provided photo — Kent Egglefield)

SARANAC LAKE — One down two to go. North Country Community College is now just a win away from playing in a national championship game.

On Thursday, the Saints easily marched into the semifinal round of the NJCAA Division III Women’s Basketball Championship tournament with a convincing 92-56 victory over Passaic County in a quarterfinal matchup.

The game was the last of four quarterfinals played on Thursday at the Arthur L. Scott Arena in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and the second-seeded Saints cruised out to a comfortable lead right off the bat and were never threatened.

Five different Saints knocked down a field goal apiece, including a three-pointer, to send NCCC out to an 11-2 lead, and the gap grew quickly from there. The Saints stretched their edge to 18-4 midway through the first period and owned a 29-8 advantage 10 minutes into the game.

If there was still any doubt about the outcome when NCCC was on top 46-28 at halftime, the Saints erased that in a hurry in the third quarter when they outscored the Panthers 31-6 to carry a 77-34 lead into the final period.

Saints’ sophomore point guard Ty Taylor brings the ball upcourt during Thursday’s game. (Provided photo — Kent Egglefield)

With the game well in command, head coach Jerrad Dumont was able to substitute freely through out much of the second half, getting all 13 Saints who made the trip time on the court while enabling key starters to rest up for their next game, a semifinal contest tonight against Owens Community College, which took down UConn Avery Point 93-79 in a quarterfinal game Thursday.

While Saints’ women were taking care of business in Pennsylvania, fans watched the action streamed live on a big screen on campus back in Saranac Lake. More than 50 people, including students, college staff, and community supporters, gathered at NCCC’s Connector saw their team come through with a dominant performance.

NCCC used its size, speed and depth to dismantle the Panthers and run and its winning streak to 23 games. Ten Saints scored against Passaic, and freshman Kayla Carder led the way with a game-high 21 points. The Northeastern Clinton High School graduate turned in another all-around solid performance, finishing with 11 rebounds, six assists, and a 9-for-10 effort at the free throw stripe before heading to the bench for the rest of the night early in the third quarter. Carder

Jasmine Cruse added 14 points in the win on a night the sophomore from Texas went 7-for-10 from the floor, and Alexis Poirier finished with 10 points coming off the bench. Sophomore point guard Ty Taylor chipped in nine points, and Bailee Gauthier and Hayley Lewis each scored eight points in the win.

The Saints drained seven of the 15 three-pointers they attempted and converted on 55.2 percent of their shots from the floor overall.

North Country Community College women's basketball fans attending a live-stream watch party at the Campus Connector react to the Saints' overwhelming quarterfinal victory over Passaic County on the first day of the NJCAA Division III Women's Basketball Championship tournament taking place in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

Olivia Moses and Kathy Davis scored 18 and 14 points to pace the Panthers, who entered the tournament with just one substitute. Passaic County went a woeful 22-for-77 from the floor while draining just two of 21 shots attempted from behind the three-point arc.

The road obviously gets tougher now for North Country, which takes on Owens, the championship’s third seed, tonight at 7 p.m. The Owens Express, whose campus is located just south of Toledo, Ohio, enter tonight’s semifinal clash with a 24-8 record, which includes a nine-game win streak. With their quarterfinal triumph, the Saints improved to 27-2.

Defending national champion and tournament top-seed Hostos and fifth-seeded Western Tech also won their opening-round games Thursday and will meet today in the first semifinal. The two winners from today will then play for the ultimate prize on Saturday in the Division III final, which also starts at 7 p.m.

Win or lose, all eight teams will play three games in the tournament.

Just like on Thursday, the public is invited to the NCCC campus connector tonight to watch the Saints semifinal matchup live against Owens.

Kayla Carder aims for the hoop on a foul shot Thursday. Carder was 9-for-10 at the line and finished with a game-high 21 points. (Provided photo — Kent Egglefield)

Alexis Poirier (25) and Te’Nae Romain defend for North Country Community College in Thursday’s quarterfinal against Passaic County. (Provided photo — Kent Egglefield)

Bernie the St. Bernard, mascot of North Country Community College, slings T-shirts out to fans who gathered at the campus connector in Saranac Lake Thursday to watch the opening round of the NJCAA Division III Women’s Basketball Championship tournament. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)