By Chris Schmidbauer, Sports Information Director
Harrison, AR -- In their first round matchup of the NJCAA Division II Tournament, the #4 seed Owens used an 18-7 run in the second quarter to build a double digit lead before halftime and not look back in their 82-64 win over Union County, the #13 seed, on Wednesday afternoon on the campus of North Arkansas College.
The Express would start off hot behind the arc in large part to Da'Vina Shelton. Shelton would hit three three pointers and Essence Cowan would hit another in the game's first four and half minutes to help Owens build a nine point lead early over the Owls. Union County would answer back though, outscoring Owens 16-12 over the remainder of the first period to trail by just five points at 29-24.
After adjustments by both teams defensively, the second period would be a lower scoring affair. Owens would finally push their lead into double digits on a Brenda Pennington jumper with 2:39 to play in the first half to lead by 11 points at 40-29. The Express would score seven of the period's final points highlighted by another Essence Cowan three to lead by 16 at the break at 47-31.
Out of the break, back to back buckets by Dai'Shona Polk would advance the Express lead to 20 points for the first time on the afternoon, but North Union would put together an 8-0 run to trim the Owens lead to just 12. That is the closest the Owls would get the remainder of the ballgame. Owens would eventually outscore them 20-17 in the third quarter.
In the fourth, the Express would make the lead as high as 22 points on a pair of free throws by Cowan with 8:48 to play in the game. The teams would each trade buckets over the remainder of the game, with the Owls never getting any closer than 16 point in the fourth period.
Four of Owens's starters finished the game in double figures scoring wise. The team was led by sophomore Brenda Pennington, whose hot stretch of play has carried over from the District Tournament a week and a half ago. The Hammond, Indiana native tied for the game high in points with 18 on 8-14 shooting. She also had the game high in assists with nine and the team high in rebounds with seven in a game high 39 minutes of play. Fellow sophomore Essence Cowan would also have 18 points for the Express on 5-13 shooting and was 3-7 from three in 35 minutes on the floor.
Da'Vina Shelton scored 17 points on 5-9 shooting and 5-6 from three. She also had six boards on the day in 34 minutes of play. Freshman Dai'Shona Polk would score 14 points on an efficient 6-8 shooting from the floor. She too had six rebounds in the contest for the Express in 30 minutes of action. Daichelle Hatcher was the leading scorer of the bench with six points on 3-3 shooting in 19 minutes of action.
The Owls were paced in scoring by Yamel Abreu, who finished with 16 points on 6-19 shooting. No other player from Union County scored in double figures. The closest was Jessica Washington who finished with nine points off the bench in 27 minutes of action.
Owens shot 55.4% (31-56) for the game from the field and they were an even 50% (9-18) from three. They also hit 73.3% (11-15) of the team's free throws. Union County shot 43.1% (25-58) from the floor and 46.7% (7-15) from three. They were also 70% (7-10) from the foul line.
Owens improves to 25-4 on the season and they have now won 13 games in a row, dating back to a January 17 win over Edison State, 77-56. Union County falls to 25-6 overall for the year.
The Express now move on to the quarterfinals against Mesa, who is the #5 seed in the tournament. They advanced to the quarterfinals with a win over Cecil, who is the #12 seed in the tournament, by a final of 76-73. The quarterfinal matchup is scheduled to tip off at 9:00 PM EST time Thursday night from Pioneer Pavilion on the campus of North Central Arkansas.