Two of the best players on Neosho County Community College women’s basketball team have been selected as some of the top players in the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference.
Coaches voted by the end of February that sophomore Chrissy Brown is a first-team All-KJCCC player, and her teammate, sophomore guard Jessica Jones, is second-team All-KJCCC.
Brown on the year was third in the conference in scoring, averaging 16.8 points, while also steadily racking up 9.8 rebounds, 5.1 assists and sticking 34 made 3s en route to 15 double-doubles. Brown’s first-team selection makes it back-to-back years the Lady Panthers have had first-team All-Conference selections, as just last year forward Kelcey Hinz made the first-team.
Brown, who was also Player of the Week after the 15th week of the season averaging 18 points, 15.5 rebounds, 12 assists and three steals on 43.7 percent shooting and 45.4 percent shooting from downtown during that span, said her hard work finally was noticed.
“Being selected first team is very cool and exciting,” Brown said. “I never thought I would have been selected. ... It took a while for people to notice I was more than someone who scores, but I appreciate the first team. Now it’s time to put in more work to become All-American because anything is possible.”
Her partner Jones was fifth in the league in scoring, putting up 16.2 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 76 made 3s, which was good for second in the conference.
These stats, in addition to playing well together as a team, led the Lady Panthers to NCCC’s best record (13-17) in the last 25 years, as well as a second-round playoff berth for the first time since the 1996-97 season.
Seventh-year head coach JJ Davis feels that the success of Brown and Jones are from team chemistry on and off the court, including sophomore bigs Haley Stiger and Morgan Bolen. Stiger, who averaged 10.5 points and 5.3 rebounds, earned a full ride to Division II Northwest Oklahoma, the same conference (Great American Conference) as Jessica Jones’ future destination, Southern Arkansas University. Bolen, on the other hand, earned the Neosho Way Player of the Year award for participating in more than 65 hours of community service this year as well as maintaining a 4.0 GPA – the commitment to the books earned her a full-ride scholarship to Emporia State University – while starting 30 games for the Lady Panthers. Another teammate, sophomore Ashley Dillinger, will graduate and focus on a career.
“I know it’s really important about Chrissy and Jess, but that Neosho Player of the Year and Haley, without those two, you know Chris and Jess probably don’t have the year that they had,” Davis said. “And I always throw Ashley in there; she played great defense. She’s a great role player for us. As far as coaching those five, they made a commitment to me, which is hard now that we didn’t get to do postseason, but they made a commitment in March that they were going to be the best team in Neosho history, and those five kids proved it. They came, they practiced four times a day, and did something special.”
Still, performances by Brown and Jones resulted in eye-popping stats nearly every game, which led to two four-game win streaks – the best two sets of win streaks since the 2014-15 season.
Brown used her speed to look for a scoring play – whether for herself or from her team – and passed and rebounded with the best, while also playing steady defense on the perimeter. Jones let the game come to her and slithered in the paint for a midrange bucket or coasted on the outside for a 3, while also using her frame to defend some of the best players.
“When Chrissy and Jess both came back, they were playing in a system where we shoot a lot of shots,” Davis noted. “Early on, they played a little selfish at times, they played to get theirs early. And as the year went on they realized, just like our culture, if you give more, things happen for you. And by the time the season ended, Chrissy ended the season with two triple-doubles and Jess shot shots. I say it like this and I made this statement for Chrissy and Jess: great players make plays. And I’m of the belief that sometimes I’m not the greatest coach, and you’re going to draw up a play, and it’s not going to work, and your best players have to make it work anyway. Those kids did that, and I think any coach that says they draw up the perfect play (that) always works, I think they’re lying to us. But I think my two kids really believed that like ‘Hey, if the play’s not there, I got the freedom and the trust of the coach that I’m going to do it regardless.’”
That mindset led Brown to getting five Division I offers, though Brown said she will not sign until April 15 due to NCAA rules. Options on the table include McNeese State University, Mississippi Valley State University, Southern University and A&M, Southeast Louisiana University, St. Bonaventure, Rider University and Norfolk State University.
“It’s pretty cool because nobody wanted her before she came here, and now all of them want her,” Davis said. “You want to know what feels the best? It’s that when you tell these kids that you’re going to give them a better opportunity if they work hard enough to get that opportunity, so we can give it to them.”