Hawks turn tables on Tigers
A late wrinkle from the regular-season finale gave the Northeast Community College men’s basketball team hope for revenge.
Fully prepared to counteract the Hawks’ change in strategy, Marshalltown CC simply failed to execute the gameplan.
Three days later and 244 miles due east, Northeast erased MCC’s regular-season sweep of the Hawks by handing the host Tigers a 79-67 setback in the opening round of the NJCAA Division I Region XI Tournament on Monday night at the Student Activity Center.
Steve Wooten shot 10-for-14 from the field en route to a game-high 26 points to lead Northeast (15-16) into a regional semifinal showdown with top-ranked Indian Hills (30-0) on Wednesday night in Ottumwa.
MCC, meanwhile, was left to try and figure out how a team it had beaten by 20 points a month ago and by 7 just three days earlier had turned the tables on the Tigers (19-11) so quickly.
“They did what we talked about they would do, they came out and pressured us with the ball on the wings a little differently than what they had normally done,” said MCC head coach Brynjar Brynjarsson. “They did that the last seven minutes of the game on Friday and we didn’t handle that very well and [I] figured that’s what they’d do and sure enough they did. We had worked on countering that and handling the ball a little bit and we just never seemed to get anything going.
“It seemed like we were out of sync and never got it moving.”
Northeast, meanwhile, made it through Marshalltown’s defense and into the lane seemingly at will. And when the Hawks got stopped or were forced to kick out to the perimeter, they were knocking down those shots too. Northeast went 6-for-14 from 3-point range and shot 51 percent from the field for the game. The Tigers, meanwhile, were 5-for-18 from 3-point range in the first half and 4-for-14 after the break, finishing the night at 28 percent from distance and 39 percent overall.
And yet, despite some frigid shooting and a sampling of foul trouble, MCC went into the locker room tied with the Hawks, 33-all.
A boost off the bench from Berk Karadan helped the Tigers cut into what had been a 13-point Northeast lead. A 3-pointer by Oscar Kao started MCC’s surge to end the first half, and Karadan tallied eight of his 10 points in the final seven minutes before the break. Javarcus Word cashed in a triple and Goran Vidovic added a 3-pointer with 20 seconds left to knot the score at 33-all.
MCC leading scorer Mohamed Thiam, a 6-foot-9 sophomore from Senegal, was limited to just two points in the first half on 1-of-8 shooting, but he fired out to start the second half and scored the Tigers’ first two buckets. Kao hit another trey and converted a steal into a layup, and Karadan sunk a jumper from the elbow to keep MCC within 48-44.
Vidovic swished another triple and Thiam tallied a three-point play, but the Tigers weren’t gaining any ground because of a lack of stops at the other end of the court. Wooten scored 13 of his 16 second-half points in the opening 10 minutes, and his conventional three-point play provided the Hawks with a 63-55 lead with 8:42 remaining.
Thiam banked in a 3 to cut it to five, but MCC made turnovers on its next two possessions. Northeast edged further out front, eventually leading by as many as 15 points before the final horn sounded the end of the season for the Tigers.
“The most disappointing part is that we’ve got a group of guys in the locker room that have actually been playing together and making plays and stepping up, and we had the same thing happen tonight,” said Brynjarsson. “But we just never seemed to be in sync or have it together. We got out rebound, which hasn’t happened for a while, and at the end of the day I thought we let our offense dictate how we played defensively.
“I didn’t think the guys weren’t trying, it just didn’t work out tonight for whatever reason. It’s a great group of guys, I really enjoyed the year with them, but tonight Northeast was better than us.”
Thiam finished with team-highs of 17 points and 15 rebounds, but a rough shooting night (7-for-21) was a shaky sample for scouts from Kansas State, Memphis and SMU in attendance.
Kao came away with 14 points, Karadan contributed 10 and Eduardo Lane added nine — all in the second half.
Behind Wooten’s 26, Northeast got 19 points and six assists from Jaquan Sanders on 7-of-11 shooting. Julius Sakinis and Jeremiah Coddon contributed nine and eight points, respectively, off the bench, and Melkisedek Moreaux added eight points as well for the Hawks.
“We got beat in the paint, we got beat to the basket and that was really the difference of what they got going, and then they made their open shots,” Brynjarsson said. “You’ve got to take your hats off to them, they took it to us down the stretch and we just never really had an answer.”
Northeast CC 79, Marshalltown CC 67
NORTHEAST (15-16) — Wooten 10-14 4-5 26, Anderson 1-9 1-2 4, Villalpando 1-1 0-0 2, Sanders 7-11 4-6 19, Moreaux 1-8 6-6 8, Byekwaso 1-1 0-0 3, Coddon 3-5 2-6 8, Sakinis 3-4 2-2 9. TOTALS 27-53 19-27 79.
MCC (19-11) — Kao 5-13 1-1 14, Thiam 7-21 1-1 17, Word 2-6 1-3 6, Ndiaye 0-1 0-0 0, Vidovic 3-8 0-0 8, Foster 1-2 0-0 3, Edwards 0-1 0-0 0, Lane 4-7 1-3 9, Karadan 3-4 4-4 10. TOTALS 25-63 8-12 67.
Halftime–Tied at 33. 3-Point Goals–Northeast 6-14 (Wooten 2-2, Byekwaso 1-1, Sakinis 1-1, Sanders 1-4, Anderson 1-5, Coddon 0-1), MCC 9-32 (Kao 3-11, Vidovic 2-6, Thiam 2-8, Foster 1-1, Word 1-4, Edwards 0-1, Karadan 0-1). Rebounds–Northeast 34 (Wooten 11), MCC 29 (Thiam 15). Assists–Northeast 13 (Sanders 6), MCC 16 (Word 6). Total Fouls–Northeast 17, MCC 20. Fouled Out–none.