The Northeast Community College men’s basketball team had its best outing of the season Tuesday night, edging the Concordia University junior varsity 78-75.

Earlier, the Hawks’ fourth-quarter comeback effort fell short as Northeast dropped the women’s contest 75-65 to the Bulldogs.

In the men’s game, assistant coaches Josh Clark and Junior Denis filled in for an under-the-weather head coach Dan Anderson.

“Coach Anderson couldn’t be here, but this win was for him,” Clark said. “I emphasized the defensive end, while Junior did a great job with the offense and substitutions — it was a combined (coaching) effort.”

With the Hawks’ lead dwindling to six points in the second half, Evan Decker, one of just three sophomores on the Northeast roster, reignited the Hawks with a pair of 3s and an offensive rebound-putback. After a pair of free throws by Jared Lopez, Northeast had returned its lead to double-figures at 55-44.

But the ability to score kept Concordia close, as an 11-4 run reduced the Hawks’ lead to 59-55 before the teams alternated baskets until the final four minutes when the Bulldogs made a final run on three consecutive baskets by Kelly Vyhnalek and a pair of free throws from Bradley Bennett to trail by just one point, 76-75, with 33 seconds remaining in the game.

“When (Concordia) came down and hit those baskets, we were only up three and called that timeout,” Clark said. “Credit to the kids; they came together as one and played really well.”

Emaniel Alexandre’s two free throws with 15 seconds left returned the Hawks lead to 78-75 and, during another timeout, Clark set the Northeast defense in a zone look before picking up the Bulldogs man-to-man on the inbounds pass. The Hawks’ defense pressured each pass and catch of Concordia’s possession, and the Bulldogs’ hurried 3-point try fell short, securing Northeast’s 78-75 win.

“It was a gamble, but we were having issues switching everything, so we were going to show zone and then pick up a man in your area,” Clark said. “I think that threw them off a little bit.”

Earlier in the game, the Hawks were thrown off a bit as Concordia benefited from four 3-point shots in the opening 11 minutes, but Northeast — which worked hard on defense all game long — settled in offensively as the game went on and began using speed and quickness to attack the rim in the half court while also creating more transition opportunities.

The faster pace contributed to a 15-0 Hawks run, triggered by three consecutive 3s — two by Saheed Sanusi and one from Alexandre — along with a defensive rebound by Lopez that became a full-court layup. Two straight steals by Chaz Cullum resulted in dunks, turning a 23-16 deficit into an eight-point Northeast lead at 31-23.

Eight points from Jai’lyn Spears during the final five minutes of the half helped the Hawks increase that advantage to 45-33 at intermission.

When Concordia, which had twice switched from man-to-man defense to a zone in the first half in an attempt to prevent Northeast from getting the ball into the paint, continued its use of the zone in the second half, the Hawks’ offense slowed briefly.

“They came out in that zone in the second half, and that kind of threw us a little bit,” Clark said. “We work against a zone in practice, so the kids are ready for it, but I thought we took some tough shots outside when I thought we could have penetrated a little bit more.”

The Hawks featured balanced scoring, with all five starters scoring between eight and 13 points — Decker (13 points), Alexandre (12), Lopez (11), Sanusi (9), Cullum (8) — and Spears providing 12 big points off the bench.

Decker’s 11 rebounds helped Northeast, now 2-3 on the season, to a slim 37-33 advantage on the boards.

“We’ve been telling the players that they have no idea of the potential they have,” Clark said. “This was really just a taste of what they can be, but we’re getting there — it’s still early.”

In the women’s game, other than an early one-possession lead of 3-2 and a brief tie at 28-28 during the second period, the Hawks trailed 42-32 at halftime after the Bulldogs’ Abby Krieser drained two straight 3s that negated the two driving layups by Destiny Epps that had temporarily reduced the Northeast deficit to 36-32 with 24 seconds left.

“We had 16 turnovers in the first half, and it’s still a four-point game until we give up a 3 by Charli Earth,” Hawks coach Matt Svehla said. “Then we have a bad offensive play, they get it, and that gives her a last-second 3. That was a big swing, after we had a chance to cut it to one or two.”

The Hawks then had to overcome an 11-0 Concordia run just two minutes into the third quarter that increased the Bulldogs’ lead to 21 points, 53-32.

“I’m trying to get the players to understand that bad shots are like turnovers, they’re just as damaging,” Svehla said. “When we drive and don’t finish, and maybe fall down, then here they come in transition and it’s five-on-four or we’re scrambling. I thought some of our offensive possessions put us in a bad position.”

Northeast steadily chipped away, buoyed by 12 points from Ashley Hassett — the last three of those a 3-point basket with 5½ minutes left to play that had the Hawks within 10 at 63-53.

However, Concordia rebuilt its advantage to 71-53 on 3s by Koryn Vangilder and Earth that sandwiched an offensive rebound-putback by Krieser.

Despite scoring the game’s final five points, Northeast, which slips to 2-4 on the season, could get no closer than the 75-65 final score.

“I thought we had some good execution moments,” Svehla said. “But we had some breakdowns defensively, some miscommunication when we switched defenses.”

Three players reached double-figure scoring for Northeast, led by Hassett’s 22 points, along with Marta Pons and Epps contributing 16 and 10 points, respectively, off the bench.

Molly Davis and Hassett pulled down 10 rebounds each to pace the Hawks on the boards.

Men’s game

Concordia University JV 33 42 — 75

Northeast Community College 45 33 — 78

Concordia JV: Joel Baker 4-15 0-0 12, Trey Scheef 0-6 4-4 4, Bradley Bennett 5-9 7-10 18, Kelly Vyhnalek 9-13 0-1 18, Casey Stegeman 1-2 0-1 2, Tice Jenkins 1-2 0-0 2, Riley Hoetfelker 2-3 2-2 6, Brayson Mueller 2-4 1-2 7, Tony Tubrick 2-2 0-0 5, Josh Puelz 0-0 1-2 1. Totals: 26-56 15-22 75.

Northeast CC (2-3): Saheed Snusi 3-7 0-0 9, Emaniel Alexandre 4-12 2-2 12, Evan Decker 5-9 0-3 13, Jared Lopez 2-12 7-8 11, Chaz Cullum 4-7 0-0 8, Kanye Raheem 2-4 0-0 5, Trey Drummond III 0-1 0-0 0, Jai’lyn Spears 6-11 0-3 12, Jaden Strachan 2-4 0-0 4, Will Forsythe 2-3 0-2 4. Totals: 30-70 9-18 78.

Women’s game

Concordia University JV 20 22 19 14 — 75

Northeast Community College 13 19 14 19 — 65

Concordia JV: Taryn Tracy 0-3 0-0 0, Skylar Kriefels 1-3 0-0 2, Jayla Policky 2-6 3-4 8, Abby Krieser 5-10 1-2 13, Charli Earth 5-13 2-2 16, Reece Snodgrass 1-2 2-2 4, Koryn Vangilder 3-6 0-0 8, Hanna Spearman 5-10 0-0 12, Lydia Hodges 1-7 0-0 2, Carolyn Esh 0-4 0-0 0, Jane Neuhaus 2-2 0-0 4, Hailey Kleinschmidt 3-4 0-0 6. Totals: 28-70 8-10 75.

Northeast CC (2-4): Alexis Bliven 1-4 0-0 2, Molly Davis 1-5 1-2 4, Ashley Hassett 5-15 10-16 22, Lorna Maxon 0-1 1-2 1, Autumn Dickmander 4-9 0-0 8, Jaydy Gonzalez 0-2 0-0 0, Marta Pons 5-8 5-6 16, Destiny Epps 4-11 0-0 10, Ellie Guthard 1-1 0-0 2. Totals: 21-56 17-26 65.

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