After having a hard time shaking a scrappy Concordia University junior varsity squad, several players provided a second-half boost that powered Northeast Community College to an 88-54 win.
With the victory, the Hawks cap off the regular season with a 26-3 record.
The Bulldogs held a 21-19 lead after the first quarter, opening the game with a 3 and then finishing the quarter with a couple more 3s, hindering the effectiveness of Northeast’s fast break.
Meanwhile, Lorna Maxon’s efforts in the first quarter kept the Hawks in contention. Maxon scored eight of her team’s points — four by cutting to the basket for high-low passes from Emina Hadzihusejnovic behind the Bulldogs’ zone and four more on mid-range jumpers from the right baseline before assisting a Hadzihusejnovic basket inside.
“Concordia really came out pretty crisp and locked in, moving the ball, attacking with the dribble,” Hawks coach Matt Svehla said. “They let a 3 go right away, and we were a little flat-footed. I thought their offensive energy was better than our defensive energy, so I wasn’t very pleased with that.”
Although Northeast took a brief lead on a Maxon 3 to open the second quarter, the Hawks weren’t able to secure control of the game until Macey Kulhanek provided a spark midway through the period.
With the score tied at 26, Kulhanek scored eight of the Hawks’ next 13 points — including a 3-point play while turning an assist by Kyla Moore into a fast-break layup, along with five more free throws earned while challenging Concordia’s interior defense with drives to the basket — to build a 39-30 lead.
“We backed the press off; I thought their ball handling was good,” Svehla said. “The varsity they practice against is one of the best teams in the country, so they’re not going to be intimidated by a little press that we throw at them because they see it every day.”
But without the benefit of turnovers created by its press, and without its fast break converting those turnovers into points, Northeast took just a 42-35 advantage into halftime when Hadzihusejnovic beat the buzzer on a basket from the left block.
“At halftime we talked about defending better. I thought we were taking some risks at times, leaving our (person) to go someplace else,” Svehla said. “But to hold them to 12 in the third (period) and seven in the fourth was just a better defensive effort.”
Northeast’s defense immediately went to work in the third quarter, turning a takeaway into a layup by Breanna Stouffer off an assist from Beth Matas before adding an 11-0 run moments later that featured fast-break points from Hadzihusejnovic, Matas and Kyla Moore, along with a transition 3 from Julia Carbonell from the wing. When Matas ended the period with a jumper, the Hawks had control of the game and a 63-47 lead.
Matas continued Northeast’s offensive onslaught by opening the fourth with back-to-back 3s — the second coming in transition — and the Hawks scored the next nine points for a lopsided 78-47 advantage before wrapping up the 88-54 win.
Northeast, which usually features production from its guard combination of Matas and Moore, got just 14 combined points from the pair but benefited from 37 points by Hadzihusejnovic (18) and Maxon (19) — who also totaled 12 and 10 rebounds, respectively, to pace the Hawks with “double-doubles.” Carbonell and Kulhanek contributed 12 and 11 points, respectively, off the bench as well.
“In the first half, our three starting guards were a combined 0 for 12 from the field. Some of that is what the other team is giving you, but they had some open looks that they didn’t make,” Svehla said. “Emina is a pretty good passer and generally makes good decisions with the ball. We got some high-low looks early in the game from her to Lorna that helped create some perimeter looks for us later on. She also ran the floor well.”
“Lorna is always scrapping for the ball and getting things done, and I thought Macey was a real spark for us in the first half. Her energy just kind of forced her teammates to come along for the ride,” he said. “Julia hit some big 3s (4 of 6) for us; she’s a good shooter.”
After losing a recent coin flip with Iowa Western Community College that determined the Reivers to be the Iowa Community College Athletic Conference’s top seed and the host of the Region XI championship game, Northeast, as the second seed, will open postseason play by hosting third-seeded Marshalltown Community College on Wednesday, Feb. 26, at 5 p.m.
“If we win that, we’ll play at Iowa Western on Saturday, the 29th,” Svehla said. “The winner of that game will host the winner of the Missouri region in what is called the ‘district championship.’ ”
Concordia JV 21 14 12 7 — 54
Northeast CC 19 23 21 25 — 88
Concordia JV (9-10): Ashley Heyen 2-7 4-6 10, Gabby Mason 2-7 0-0 5, Kayla Luebbe 4-14 2-3 10, Averie Lambrecht 1-3 0-0 2, Jayda Lyon 2-6 4-6 9, Keri Bauer 1-5 0-0 2, Emily Jones 0-5 0-0 0, Olivia Otte 2-9 0-0 5, Brooklyn Minzel 3-9 0-0 7, Elle Luehr 2-2 0-0 4. Totals: 19-66 10-15 54.
Northeast CC (26-3): Beth Matas 4-10 0-0 10, Emina Hadzihusejnovic 8-11 2-2 18, Kyla Moore 2-13 0-0 4, Breanna Stouffer 1-4 4-4 6, Lorna Maxon 8-13 2-3 19, Hannah Kasik 1-1 0-0 2, Kelly Kleffner 0-0 3-4 3, Julia Carbonell 4-6 0-0 12, Katarina Zagorac 1-1 1-1 3, Jacalyn Schwanebeck 0-1 0-0 0, Macey Kulhanek 2-10 7-9 11. Totals: 31-70 19-23 88.