The Northeast Community College men’s basketball team put its talent on display early in the second half on Monday, playing the Hawks’ best basketball of the game during an eight-minute span.
The payoff for that all-around effort was a 73-62 Iowa Community College Athletic Conference win over Southwestern Community College, a victory that improves Northeast’s conference record to 3-5 as part of an overall 11-9 record.
The Hawks’ performance included a combination of inspired play at both ends of the floor — improved ball movement and shooting offensively, along with a strong team defensive effort and an impressive rebounding emphasis overall.
In the second half, Northeast turned around a 33% field goal percentage (10 of 30, 3 of 11 from beyond the arc), making 12 of 21 shots from the field, including 5 of 10 from 3-point range (57%).
“We spent a little bit of our halftime break talking about offense and about how our guards weren’t recognizing they were in a zone,” Northeast coach Dan Anderson said. “That zone had big gaps, and we said you guys are quick — get in there.”
Southwestern’s defensive strategy throughout the first half had involved alternating man-to-man defense after missed baskets, while turning to a 2-3 zone after the Spartans scored. The change-up was effective as the Hawks’ pace of play often led to missed shots among a crowd of Southwestern defenders.
“We have nice players, but sometimes even nice players don’t recognize what they’re in,” Anderson said.
Northeast returned to the floor after intermission, leading 31-30 following a first half that saw four tie scores and five lead changes, and quickly took the momentum from the Spartans, who scored first on Devin Tomlinson’s drive to the basket.
Chaz Cullum, twice, and Collin Storr sent kick-out passes to an open Ben Hammond on the right-hand side of the floor. Hammond, who had made just 1 of 6 3-point tries in the first half, drained all three. Emaniel Alexandre also followed up Cullum’s contested fast-break layup attempt for an offensive rebound putback, and Northeast led 42-34.
The Hawks’ defense kept the pressure on Southwestern, accumulating four steals over the next two minutes that led to baskets by Storr and Jared Lopez, along with eight straight points from Alexandre — all totaled as a 23-8 run that established a 54-38 advantage with 14 minutes left in the contest.
“Defensively, we got after them pretty good,” Anderson said. “We came up with some steals, and we made free throws in the first half and most of the second half.”
The Spartans (7-13) did answer with a 10-2 run of their own, turning to a full-court zone press that again forced Northeast’s offense to adjust and taking advantage of 3s by Brance Baker and Joel Villanueva.
The Hawks’ offense settled in once again, improving ball movement to get quality scoring chances.
Alexandre scored on a drive on one possession, added a 3 on the next, then contributed 2 of 3 free throws after being fouled on another 3-point attempt. The sophomore also made both ends of a bonus free-throw opportunity to return Northeast’s lead to nine, at 65-56.
“Late, we started using the clock and ran it down to almost single digits before we went,” Anderson said. “We scored a couple times, and there were a couple times when we did a great job of rebounding.”
The Hawks improved on a 17-13 first-half edge on the boards by outrebounding Southwestern 15-10 in the second.
Northeast’s defense and rebounding limited the Spartans to just four points in the final four minutes, but the Hawks’ performance at the free-throw line — making just 6 of 12 (finishing 21 for 33 from the charity stripe in the game) — prevented a more secure advantage down the stretch of the 73-62 win.
Alexandre’s 26 game-high points led Northeast offensively, with Lopez and Hammond each contributing 15 points.
Alexandre also led all rebounders with 10. Cullum and Jaden Strachan each totaled seven.
The Hawks will travel to Fort Dodge, Iowa, on Wednesday to face Iowa Central Community College before returning to the Cox Activities Center on Saturday for a 3 p.m. matchup with Kirkwood Community College as part of a doubleheader with the Northeast women scheduled to tip off at 1.
Southwestern CC 30 32 — 62
Northeast CC 31 42 — 73
SOUTHWESTERN CC (7-13): Joel Villanueva 2-5 0-0 5, Patrick Worrell 1-5 0-0 2, Brance Baker 4-5 0-0 11, Devin Tomlinson 8-13 2-3 19, Drake Davison 3-5 3-4 9, Justin Bussey 2-6 5-8 9, Khayden Hooks 2-3 0-0 4, Corbin Dozier 1-6 0-0 3. Totals: 23-48 10-15 62.
NORTHEAST CC (11-9): Emaniel Alexandre 7-18 10-14 26, Ben Hammond 4-11 3-4 15, Jared Lopez 2-4 0-0 4, Collin Storr 5-6 5-7 15, Chaz Cullum 2-6 1-4 5, Saheed Sanusi 0-1 0-0 0, Jaden Strachan 1-3 0-2 3, Bryan Rolle 1-2 2-2 5. Totals: 22-51 21-33 73.