Tigers travel comeback trail to top Little Priest Tribal College

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON • Marshalltown Community College forward Bassirou Ndiaye (14) attempts to go up with a shot as Little Priest Tribal College’s Tyrese Brown (10) rakes him across the arms during the first half of the Tigers’ 80-70 win over the Warriors on Saturday.

With less than 10 minutes left in the game, the Marshalltown Community College basketball team needed a spark to finish off its comeback over Little Priest Tribal College on Saturday night.

The Tigers had fought from behind all night after a slow start, and heading into the final stretch they were down 52-49, better than their halftime deficit of 36-31.

Sophomore forward Mohamed Thiam had already gotten the crowd involved on a couple of electric dunks to reduce the Warrior lead, but it was his work outside the paint that put MCC on top for good.

Thiam hit two 3-pointers during a critical stretch, one to tie the game at 55 and one to give the Tigers a 62-55 advantage, and MCC never looked back, taking an 80-70 win over LPTC.

Marshalltown head coach Brynjar Brynjarsson said Thiam, who led the Tigers with 22 points on the night despite only scoring two in the first half, came in the clutch when the team needed him most.

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON • Marshalltown Community College sophomore Mohamad Thiam (4) contends for a rebound over Little Priest Tribal College’s Ethan Steinbronn, right, during the Tigers’ win over the Warriors on Saturday.

“It was nice to see Mohamed kind of step up and make some plays after a tough first half,” Brynjarsson said.

It wasn’t just Thiam who struggled in the first half, all of the Tigers seemed sluggish out of the gates. At halftime, MCC had only hit 13-of-41 shots for 31.7 percent, including a stagnant 3-18 mark on three-pointers.

Brynjarsson said his guys weren’t ready to go when the opening whistle sounded, and they have to learn to start games faster before getting into the meat of their schedule.

“They came in here and took it to us and right off the bat we weren’t ready. Very disappointing how we went through that, we have to get better and we have to get better quick,” he said. “We have two tough games coming up here on Friday and Saturday and if we are going to continue to do what we did tonight it will be a long year for us.”

As soon as the Tigers came out in the second half, it was clear the offense had woken up. MCC (4-1) outscored the Warriors (3-3) 49-34 in the second half, something Brynjarsson said was a direct result of getting into the paint.

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON

“What helped was that we weren’t settling, we shot 18 threes in the first half and ended up shooting eight in the second half,” he said. “The ball went in the paint, the ball went inside and we scored.”

While Thiam’s 20 points in the second half were the major catalyst, freshman guard Javarcus Word was also extremely effective in the second, going for 10 of his 12 points in the frame and snatching down five rebounds, good enough for third on the team.

Word said the difference between the first and second halves was the pace that the Tigers were able to play with.

“It was a lot of energy, we had to keep the energy up,” Word said. “We had some big plays too, like when Mohamed dunked, it seemed like everything changed.”

MCC generally runs a lot of its offense through Thiam, which causes other teams to focus on him more, something Word said opens up him and the rest of the Tigers to do some damage.

“Playing off of Mohamed, it makes the game way easier,” Word said. “Everybody is just really focused on him, and it’s easy to play off of him because he’s a good passer and a good all-around player.”

Word and the other MCC guards were huge factors in the win, especially in the second half. Juan Coffi and JJ Foster each had two steals during the Tigers run to take the lead and Oscar Kao notched three assists during the spat.

Brynjarsson said having four, even five, guys who can contribute from the guard position on any given night makes his team more dangerous.

“Javarcus Word came in and had some nice, nice minutes for us,” Brynjarsson said. “I thought JJ, in the minutes that he had, he did a nice job. We have to find a way for the guys to understand that on a given night, whoever’s got it going on, he’s going to be in there and then if somebody else has it going then he will be in the next night.”

Word said when they work together during practice, the guard group takes pride in improving defensively, something that was on display on Saturday night.

“Coach talked to us about being tough, and all of us guards, we are on each other every day about sitting on defenders and stuff,” he said. “We just have to sit down and guard.”

Of course the big men were important to the win as well, and not just Thiam. As a whole, MCC out-rebounded Little Priest Tribal College 40-20.

Even just five games into the season, the Tigers have shown they can get the job done in multiple ways with multiple people leading the way, and Word said that fact just makes everyone on the team want to improve every day.

“Being around everybody makes you play better,” he said. “Especially when somebody else has it going, it makes you want to get it going. You feel like you have to step up your game too.”

To keep winning, however, Brynjarsson said the team has to work on how it approaches the game as a whole, because they can’t fall behind early to some of the better competition they will face soon enough.

“We have to handle ourselves better for 40 minutes, five minutes at a time,” Brynjarsson said. “The first half was absolutely something that we have not talked about, but it’s nice to see we stepped up in the second half and shot almost 62 percent. That’s what we are capable of doing when we do things the right way.”

MCC next hits the court on Friday for its first game of the Emerson Classic against Quakerdale Prep Academy, starting at 7 p.m. at the Student Activity Center.

Marshalltown CC 80, Little Priest Tribal College 70

At Marshalltown

LITTLE PRIEST TRIBAL COLLEGE (3-3) — Steinbronn 8-11 5-6 22, Burnside 3-11 0-1 7, Dunlap 1-5 2-4 5, Oliver 7-15 4-5 19, Gresham 3-5 3-3 9, Washington 0-1 0-0 0, Cleveland 0-0 0-0 0, King 0-0 0-0 0, Brown 2-2 0-0 5, Bass 0-0 0-0 0, Yazzie 1-2 0-0 3. TOTALS 22-25 14-19 70.

MARSHALLTOWN CC (4-1) — Coffi 2-4 2-3 6, Kao 5-12 1-3 14, Thiam 10-18 0-0 22, Vidovic 0-7 0-0 0, Lane 3-5 0-0 6, Foster 2-3 0-1 4, Word 5-9 1-2 12, Ting 0-1 0-0 0, Ndiaye 3-9 2-4 8, Edwards 1-3 0-0 2, Tony Smith 0-1 0-0 0, Karadan 3-3 0-0 6. TOTALS 34-75 6-13 80.

Halftime–LPTC 36, MCC 31. 3-point goals–LPTC 6-14 (Brown 1-1, Steinbronn 1-2, Burnside 1-2, Yazzie 1-2, Dunlap 1-3, Oliver 1-3, Gresham 0-1), MCC 6-26 (Kao 3-9, Thiam 2-7, Word 1-2, Coffi 0-1, Foster 0-1, Ting 0-1, Edwards 0-2, Vidovic 0-3). Rebounds–LPTC 20 (Steinbronn 6), MCC 40 (Thiam 9). Assists–LPTC 9 (Oliver 4), MCC 14 (two with 3). Total fouls–LPTC 15, MCC 19. Technical fouls–LPTC 1, MCC 1.