The Tigers got the start they wanted.
But to hang with one of the nation's best, they'd need an even better finish.
Unable to maintain their high intensity after a strong opening, the Marshalltown Community College women's basketball team could only hang with NJCAA No. 4-ranked Kirkwood for so long in a 77-52 loss in ICCAC Division II play Wednesday at the Student Activity Center.
T-R PHOTO BY TYLER STRAND
MCC’s Latrice McMullen (50) hits a jumper over Kirkwood’s Lexi Hobbs (12) and Whitney Henderson (44) in an ICCAC Division II women’s basketball game at the Student Activity Center Wednesday. McMullen tallied 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting, though the fourth-ranked Eagles claimed a 77-52 victory over host Marshalltown.
Owning a 12-point advantage at intermission, the Eagles took flight in the first five minutes of the second half stringing together a 15-4 run to put the game out of reach at 48-25.
Bianca Dufelmeier scored a game-high 16 points to lead Kirkwood (15-3, 4-0) to its seventh straight victory, while handing the Tigers their fifth loss in six games.
Moments after the Eagles' surge, a Mackenzie Gott free throw and a triple from Lauran Hansen brought the Tigers within 20 but they couldn't trim the deficit any closer the rest of the way.
Kirkwood 77, Marshalltown 52
KIRKWOOD (15-3, 4-0) - Fallon 4-6 0-0 8, Hobbs 2-9 0-0 5, Duffelmeier 7-10 0-0, Gray 1-2 0-0 2, Jacobs 4-14 4-6 12, Rohrbach 2-8 0-0 4, Fitzpatrick 3-13 2-2 9, Faber 2-5 0-0 4, Henderson 0-1 2-2 2, Tow 1-2 1-2 3, Chuol 7-7 0-0 14. TOTALS 33-77 9-12 77.
MCC (4-9, 0-3) - Salgado 0-7 2-2 2, Tobler 4-6 2-2 10, Hansen 3-7 0-0 8, Henio 0 0-0 0, Van Metre 5-11 3-4 14, Gott 2-9 1-2 5, Slade 0-2 0-0 0, McMullen 6-8 1-5 13. TOTALS 20-50 9-15 52.
Halftime - Kirkwood 33-21. 3-Point Goals - Kirkwood 4-23 (Dufelmeier 2-4, Fitzpatrick 1-6, Hobbs 1-7, Gray 0-1, Jacobs 0-1, Rohrbach 0-2, Fallon 0-2); MCC 3-12 (Hansen 2-6, Salgado 1-2, Van Metre 1-5). Rebounds - Kirkwood 41 (Jacobs 8), MCC 34 (Gott 10). Totals Fouls - Kirkwood 12, MCC 16.
Playing their first home game since Nov. 17, the Tigers (4-9, 0-3) played inspired ball early and were within single digits through much of a back-and-forth opening frame that MCC coach Allison Lacey considered "one of the team's better first half efforts."
"We executed the game plan, we listened and we translated practice into a game," Lacey said.
The Eagles were content to fire away from outside and connected on just 1-of-13 shots from deep in the first 20 minutes, but eventually started attacking the paint and pouncing on second opportunities to stretch the lead to 33-21 at the break.
"It's hard to win when you give your opposition three or four attempts at the basket," said Lacey, whose squad lost the battle of the boards 41-34 and gave up 17 rebounds on the offensive end.
"Their size comes into it, but do I think we gave our best effort every time? No. If you want the ball you're going to find a way to get it somehow."
Kiana Jacobs found a way to the ball on numerous occasions grabbing a team high eight rebounds - five offensive - and tallying 12 points for Kirkwood, while Friday Chuol added 14 points on a 7-for-7 effort.
While the Eagles created plenty of pressure with their full-court press to claim 16 steals, the Tigers committed their own share of unforced miscues and finished with 27 turnovers in the game.
Lacey believes better focus is one of the main ways the Tigers can cut down on their total as several turnovers resulted from mental lapses.
"We throw it to someone five feet over their head in the backcourt with no one even around us," Lacey said. "It's little things like that. The game's already hard enough without us hurting ourselves."
After a sluggish start, the Eagles looked the part of the No. 4 team, which claimed the ICCAC Division II crown last season en route to a sixth-place finish at the national tournament - their 10th appearance in 11 years.
A transition layup from Krissi Tow and two straight buckets from Chuol capped a 17-6 burst as the Eagles continued to roll late in the second half. Along with their pressure defense, Kirkwood also wore down the Tigers at the offensive end with quick ball movement.
"In the first half we came out with a lot of energy," MCC forward Latrice McMullen said. "If we made a mistake we'd pick each other up. In the second half, some of the calls the refs made were getting to us and bringing our momentum down. We've got to learn how to push through it."
Mady Van Metre paced the Tigers with 14 points and seven rebounds, while McMullen added 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting. Mackenzie Gott grabbed a game-high 10 boards, Shantal Tobler had 10 points, and Lauran Hansen chipped in eight points.
While the Tigers are still fortifying the mental toughness necessary for a 40-minute game, Lacey has seen progression and is optimistic that good things are ahead.
"We've made progress from earlier in the season," Lacey said. "Our attitude and effort is better. It's a process and hopefully we're one of the teams that's playing its best basketball at the end of the year."
The Tigers host Northeast Community College Saturday at 5 p.m.
MCC split a pair at the Wisconsin Classic hosted by UW-Washington County Jan. 4-5. The Tigers lost to Lincoln Land CC 71-62 Jan. 4 before snapping their four-game skid with a 82-41 victory over the host Wildcats Jan. 5 ... Kirkwood has defeated three NJCAA ranked teams this season including then-No.1 ranked Lake Michigan College, No. 8 Illinois Central and Division 1 No. 17 Moberly Area CC (Mo). ... Kirkwood won four straight national championships from 2006-07 through 2009-10 ... Rusty Henio became eligible for the Tigers over winter break bumping the MCC roster up to 10 players ... East Marshall grad Tara Gray tallied two points for Kirkwood.