Florida State and Tennessee spent Thanksgiving weekend in a tropical paradise and left champions.
Florida State cruised past Eastern Kentucky in the opening round of the Bimini Division, 62-45, setting up a thrilling title showdown with Iowa. In a possible March preview, the Seminoles got 25 points and five rebounds from Bimini Most Valuable Player Nausia Woolfolk and won 71-67.
Fellow Bimini All-Stars honoree Kiah Gillespie delivered with 13 points and nine rebounds, following up on a 21-point, six-rebound showing against Eastern Kentucky. Her corner three-pointer early in the fourth quarter gave the Seminoles breathing room down the stretch.
Freshman Valencia Myers also came up big in the win over Iowa, recording 10 points and nine rebounds. As importantly, Gillespie and Myers helped in limiting the Hawkeyes All-American center Megan Gustafson to 16 points and eight rebounds — seven and four below her season averages. Limiting Gustafson on the glass was also crucial to Florida State holding a 37-30 rebounding advantage.
Gustafson came into the matchup fresh off a 28-point, 16-rebound effort in Iowa’s 84-81 win over West Virginia. Her 22-point, 12-rebound per game averages for the weekend earned Gustafson Bimini All-Stars recognition.
Iowa came alive in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Mountaineers in the period 29-12. West Virginia guard Kysre Gondrezick scored 22 in the loss and followed it up with 17 points, six assists, and three steals in an 81-39 romp over Eastern Kentucky.
Gondrezick was named to the Bimini All-Stars. Catie Kaifes, Eastern Kentucky’s leading scorer against both Florida State (12) and West Virginia (13), rounded out the bracket’s All-Star selections.
On the other side of the Junkanoo Jam bracket, Tennessee concluded with 18 points from Junkanoo Division MVP Rennia Davis in a 73-69, overtime win against UAB.
Three Lady Vols scored in double-figures in the back-and-forth title tilt, which reached the extra frame thanks to a 19-9 fourth quarter. Tennessee trailed by as many as 12 twice in the quarter, but chipped away. Evina Westbrook made a three-pointer, free throw, and lay-in each in the final 4:45 to help force overtime. She finished with 16 points.
Meme Jackson, named a Junkanoo Division All-Star, scored eight points with eight rebounds and three steals in the finale. She led a balanced scoring effort with 14 points in the opening-night win over Clemson, one of five Lady Vols to hit double-figures.
Davis, Cheridene Green, and Kasiyahna Kushkituah — who recorded a double-double against UAB — all recorded between 10 and 13 points against Clemson.
Tennessee’s team effort was too much for the Tigers, but they regrouped in a 74-62 win over Oklahoma. Tigers guard Danielle Edwards scored 24 points against the Sooners, following up on a game-high 19 vs Tennessee. Edwards was named to the Junkanoo All-Stars.
Oklahoma finishing the tournament 0-2 speaks to the quality of competition in the Junkanoo Jam. To wit, tournament All-Star Madi Williams’ 22 points and eight rebounds were not enough in an 89-84 loss to UAB.
The first-round matchup was back-and-forth throughout, with three of the four quarters just one or two points apart. UAB’s 26-21 edge in the opening period made the difference.
So, too, did the individual play of Junkanoo All-Star Katelynn Thomas. She scored 22 points in the win over Oklahoma, and tied teammate Rachael Childress with a team-high 19 points in the championship loss to Tennessee.
“I am excited for her and our team, because when you have that inside presence it is going to open up things on the outside so we can have the balance of playing inside out," Blazers coach Randy Norton said of Thomas, per UABSports.com.
Florida State (Champion)
- W vs. Eastern Kentucky, 62-45
- W vs. Iowa, 71-67
- W vs. West Virginia, 84-81
- L vs. Florida State, 71-67
- L vs. Iowa, 84-81
- W vs. Eastern Kentucky, 81-39
- W vs. Clemson, 78-66
- W vs. UAB, 73-69 (OT)
- W vs. Oklahoma, 89-84
- L vs. Tennessee, 73-69 (OT)
- L vs. Tennessee, 78-66
- W vs. Oklahoma, 74-62
- L vs. UAB, 89-84
- L vs. Clemson, 74-62
Kyle Kensing is a freelance sports journalist in southern California. Follow him on Twitter @kensing45.