By SAM GRUBENHOFF
LUBBOCK, Texas — Jade Lewis wanted in on the 3-point parade.
Standing out in the left corner, the Raider guard waited. In the paint, Trinity Baptiste pump faked a pair of defenders and dished the ball over her left shoulder to Lewis.
Lewis didn't hesitate. She buried the 3-pointer and held her right hand in the air for good measure.
It was hard to blame her. Almost every time down the floor the Northwest Florida State women's basketball team had the green light from deep, and the results were hard to argue with. The 14th-seeded Raiders beat third-seeded Moberly Area Community College 68-47 Wednesday night at the Rip Griffin Center in Lubbock, Texas, to lock up a spot in the NJCAA Elite Eight. They went 11-for-29 from 3.
Lewis's 3-pointer, her second of the night, put the Raiders up 58-30 with a minute to play in the third quarter. The 28-point lead was their largest of the night against the Greyhounds, a team that entered the contest undefeated at 32-0.
"We knew the wins and losses doesn't matter," Raider guard Ann Jernigan said. "We're what? (24-6)? It doesn't matter. It matters if we're going in there and doin' what we're supposed to do and doin' what we have to do to win."
For the first three quarters of the game, the Raiders did what it took to win and then some.
In the first quarter, the NWF State defense held Moberly Area to only 11 points. The Greyhounds were averaging 78.9 points per game this season. In the second quarter, Moberly scored only nine points while Raider freshman Georgia Gayle did her best Steph Curry impression, dropping three 3 pointers and a layup for 11 points.
Gayle finished the night leading all scorers with 20 points on 7-of-15 shooting.
The Raiders finished the half on a 22-2 run and held the Greyhounds scoreless for the last 3:22 of the second quarter. NWF State headed to the locker rooms up 35-20.
"We've hung our hat on our defense," Raider coach Bart Walker said. "We're one of the best defensive teams in the country, and we run multiple defenses, so it helps us."
Out of the break, the Raiders continued to pour on the scoring in the third and didn't feel bad about it.
"The mindset is just to keep pushing," Jernigan said. "Don't ever underestimate a team. To keep going hard whether we're up 15 or down 7, to keep our focus and maintain our defensive stance and maintain running our offense."
Jernigan finished the night third on the team in scoring with 11 points with a team-high five assists and five rebounds.
The rejuvenated Raiders will get roughly 24 hours before they have to hit the floor again at 7 p.m. Thursday against either No. 11 Tallahassee or No. 6 Wabash Valley.
NWF State didn't matchup with Wabash Valley during the regular season, but it's plenty acquainted with Tallahasse, splitting the regular season series 2-2, including a 57-53 loss in a tiebreaker game at the end of the season for a chance to play in the Region 8 tournament.