The Wildcats began their final home weekend on Friday night with an A.I.I. matchup with Northern New Mexico College.
The 'Cats started strong early with a 7-3 lead before the Eagles rallied to take the 14-12 lead with 3:01 left in the first quarter. The Eagles built a small lead but Johnson & Wales were able to come back within one to trail 19-18 after the opening frame. In the second quarter, JWU fought back to go up 26-23 off a three pointer by Vanessa Maestas (Thornton, Colo.) at the 6:40 mark. The two teams traded baskets for the final few minutes with Northern New Mexico holding the 36-33 lead at the break.
Back to back three pointer by Cara McNiff (Aurora, Colo.) got JWU on their way in the second half as they went up 39-36 to open the third. The 'Cats offense started to spark as they continued to hit their shots. JWU extended their lead to nine points but it was short-lived as the Eagles rallied to tie the game 50-50 with 1:27 left in the third. NNMC held the 55-53 lead after three quarters of play.
In the fourth the teams again traded points with the Wildcats holding the 66-59 lead with 3:13 left to play. The Eagles wouldn't back down and fought to the finish. Johnson & Wales was able to hold off the late push and take the 74-72 victory.
McNiff led five Wildcats in double-digit scoring with 17 points and McCorra Ford (Gillette, Wyo.) had a game high 16 rebounds. Ford also had six assists and eight steals. Demetria Clichee had 27 points for Northern New Mexico and Ashley John had 12 rebounds.
The two teams will meet again on Saturday at 1pm as Johnson & Wales wraps up their home slate.