A 74-40 win over Marshalltown Community College Wednesday evening sends the Hawks women’s basketball team to Council Bluffs, Iowa, on Saturday to play what amounts to a “rubber match” with Iowa Western for the Region XI championship.
Although Northeast got off to a rather slow start, understandable considering the Hawks had beaten Marshalltown by 50 and 40 points in two earlier meetings this season, and trailed 16-12 after the first quarter, it was a short-lived advantage for the Tigers.
“I thought we were just going through the motions at the start, very lethargic, not sharp at all on either end (of the floor),” Northeast coach Matt Svehla said. “There’s that human element that, no matter how much the coach talks about you’re going to respect them, you’re going to show up--but are you going to be as sharp as you need to be. We haven’t played for awhile; our last game was nine days ago, plus we’ve had four or five kids who’ve been ill with the flu and haven’t picked up a basketball for four or five days.”
“They weren’t running anything different than we had seen, had talked about, and had practiced, but we didn’t defend their stuff very well--their out-of-bounds plays, their cuts,” he said. “Luckily we got going and hit some shots. That’s been a good thing about our team; when we’ve had some bad quarters, we seem to get out of it, and that’s not always the case for teams.”
The Hawks not only began hitting shots--especially 3s, a category in which 27-3 Northeast holds the top spot nationally among Division I junior college teams--but also began rebounding the ball and accumulating steals. But, most importantly, Northeast started turning those into fastbreak opportunities.
An 18-2 run, which began with the Hawks scoring the last four points of the first quarter on Macey Kulhanek’s pullup jumper in the lane and two free throws by Kyla Moore, continued into the second quarter resulting in a 26-18 Northeast lead.
In the process, the Hawks followed up a 30 percent first-quarter shooting performance with a nearly 60 percent second quarter which included an improvement in 3-point shooting from 20 percent to 57 percent. Moore, Julia Carbonell, Beth Matas, and Breanna Stouffer all contributed 3s in the second period as Northeast outscored the Tigers 28-7 during the period to build a 40-23 halftime advantage.
Matas scored all 10 of her points in the first half--seven in the second quarter--while Lorna Maxon accounted for six rebounds and Kulhanek picked off four steals to spark Northeast’s running game.
“We had pretty good control at halftime and felt pretty good going into the fourth quarter,” Svehla said.
After scoring the final seven points of the first half, the Hawks used back-to-back 3s by 6-foot-3 postplayer Emina Hadzihusejnovic and another by Stouffer to continue outscoring Marshalltown 17-2 to open the third quarter--doubling the score 50-25 on the Tigers--before finalizing the 74-40 victory.
Hadzihusejnovic and Moore led the Hawks with 16 points apiece, with Stouffer finishing with 13 and Matas 10.
Northeast now turns its attention to Iowa Western, which earned the top seed by way of a coin flip as part of the tie-breaker criteria after the two teams split a pair of seven-point wins during the regular season.
“Our last game against them we got beat at their place, so that’s the one that’s in my mind, but we know who they are,” Svehla said. “They’re a tough, athletic team that is physical on the boards. We’ll need to sort plays out better than we did tonight, deciding where’s the best place to go with the basketball.”
“We’ll have to sustain energy; we did that last time but not for the full game, so when we stopped cutting and filling and were sluggish with (moving the ball), they pounced on us a little bit which caused problems,” he said. “That can result in them taking you out of what you want to do. Deeper in the season teams know what you want to do and will try to take those things away, just like we’ll try to do.”
The winner of the Region XI title game will host the winner of the Missouri region in the district championship game on Friday, March 6th.
Region XI playoff game
Marshalltown Community College 16 7 11 6 -- 40
Northeast Community College 12 28 21 13 -- 74
Marshalltown CC (8-22): Rachelle Smith 1-3 0-0 2, Dana Stokes 8-15 1-2 17, Laurin Lyons 2-7 0-4 5, Eva Zaragoza 1-6 0-0 2, Eva Carballo 2-7 2-2 6, Mrijz Egic 0-1 0-0 0, Whitley Ervin 1-6 0-1 2, Carla Collado 0-1 0-0 0, Muria Castillo 2-6 0-0 6. Totals: 17-52 3-9 40.
Northeast CC (27-3): Beth Matas 4-7 0-0 10, Emina Hadzihusejnovic 6-8 2-2 16, Kyla Moore 4-11 6-6 16, Breanna Stouffer 4-7 2-3 13, Lorna Maxon 2-6 0-0 4, Hannah Kasik 0-2 0-0 0, Kelly Kleffner 0-1 0-0 0, Julia Carbonell 2-9 0-0 6, Katarina Zagorac 0-1 1-2 1, Macey Kulhanek 3-5 2-4 8. Totals: 25-57 13-17 74.