March 11, 2009
By making it to the NJCAA Division I Women''s Basketball National Championship, the East Mississippi Community College Lady Lions are having their best season in 31 years.
EMCC (24-5) has advanced to the national tournament for the first time since finishing as the runner-up with a 31-1 record in 1978.
EMCC''s opening-round opponent for the tournament at the Bicentennial Center on March 17-21 in Salina, Kansas, has yet to be determined. The bracket is expected to be finalized today.
Jasmine Abrams, a sophomore forward from Columbus, has been a key contributor to EMCC''s postseason surge.
"It''s a great honor," Abrams said of EMCC making it to the national tournament. "Before I got here, EMCC didn''t have such a great record. But as soon as I got here I was inspired by the coaching staff, and I was inspired by my teammates to be a better player despite the history we''ve had."
EMCC, which will leave Saturday for Kansas, beat Northwest Mississippi, MACJC state champion Jones County, and Copiah-Lincoln to win the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament at Mississippi College in Clinton last week.
Abrams started all three games of the Region 23 Tournament and averaged 8.7 points, 9.7 rebounds, and three blocked shots per game.
"It was a dream come true," Abrams said of winning the Region 23 championship. "It was something we all worked hard for and spent countless hours in the gym for. It wasn''t a surprise to me."
Abrams worked her way back into the starting lineup for the region tournament after being a key contributor off the bench.
Her main contribution to EMCC''s success has been on the backboards. She is the team''s second-leading rebounder (7.6 per game).
Abrams also has been a key contributor on a defense that allows only 59.2 points per game. She leads the Lady Lions with 27 blocked shots this season.
"Jasmine does a great job on post defense and she''s a tremendous rebounder," said EMCC coach Sharon Thompson, the MACJC Coach of the Year. "She''s 6-foot and left-handed and can jump out of the gym, as they say. She has a good-looking, athletic body, and she''s strong and she can jump. She does a good job rebounding."
Abrams, who is EMCC''s tallest player, takes pride in her ability to rebound and to defend.
"A lot of times I don''t always get the points I want, but I always get my rebounds," Abrams said. "I always go hard for them whether it''s offensive or defensive (rebounds). If I don''t do anything else, that''s something I want to do.
"It''s what I love to do. I love to jump and get in there and bang for rebounds. Getting something first that someone else wants is a pride in my heart."
Abrams said rebounding is a matter of determination.
"I realize I''m the highest jumper on the team. Therefore, I just block out and go for the rebound," Abrams said. "When I see it, just like coach tells us all the time, just go get it, it''s not going to fall in our hands. We just have to go after it hard because the other girls want it, too. I want it more. Therefore I just go hard and jump."
Although she is known more for defense and rebounding, Abrams also contributes on offense. She is the team''s fourth-leading scorer.
Thompson said Abrams is dedicated to doing whatever she can to help the team.
"She may call me late at night and ask me if she can go to the gym and shoot," Thompson said. "She''s one of those kids you don''t have to make come in to do extra stuff. There are times she''ll come early before practice or stay after practice and get some shots in."
Abrams hopes her determination will help the Lady Lions win a national championship.