Free throws help Hawks escape 25th ranked Tigers
The free throw line was a source of frustration for the Marshalltown Community College men’s basketball team both early and late.
The Tigers couldn’t convert from the stripe in the first half and failed to keep Northeast Community College off it in the second.
Combined with some costly turnovers down the stretch, NJCAA No. 25 MCC came up on the short end of a 108-101 overtime thriller in their ICCAC Division I opener against the Hawks at the Student Activity Center Saturday.
The Hawks (13-5, 1-0) made 24-of-36 free throws in the second half and overtime period and finished 31-for-49 in the game.
“The fouling and getting them on the line was a crucial thing for them getting back into the game,” MCC Coach Brynjar Brynjarsson said.
“They made their free throws, I give them a lot of credit for that. When they needed to, they made a play.”
Raheim Holloway converted a 3-point play with 36.8 seconds left in the extra session to pull the Tigers within 102-101 before Corey Mitchell and KJ Bluford each hit a pair from the line and Sean McGary made a layup to close it out. Holloway’s layup capped an 11-3 flurry for MCC after Northeast seized a 99-90 lead with eight straight points with 1:33 to play.
The Tigers (14-3, 0-1) had a couple miscues late and Holloway’s final 3-point attempt was off the mark as the Hawks sealed the win.
“There were just some key turnovers at the end of the game that cost us a bit for some wide-open layups,” said Brynjarsson, whose squad was whistled for 39 fouls, compared to 28 for Northeast.
“There were some tough foul calls that were made, but we have to play through that and find a way to win the game.”
After a quiet first half, Bluford scored 19 of his 31 points in the final five minutes of regulation and overtime to rally Northeast from a 79-66 deficit with 7:15 to play.
“I have to give credit to Marshalltown,” Northeast coach Dan Anderson said.
“They did a good job of guarding (Bluford) and trying to take him out of his element early.”
The sophomore guard made 13-of-14 from the line and knotted the game at 85 by flipping a shot over his head while spinning through the lane to draw Lamont Adair’s fifth foul.
Bluford completed the 3-point play and later answered Chris Caird’s driving layup with another pair at the line with 14 seconds to play in regulation.
The Tigers had one final chance to end it in regulation but Holloway’s 3-pointer bounced off the front iron leaving the score tied at 87.
Caird, who was coming off a career-high 35 point-effort Wednesday, poured in a game-high 33 points including six treys.
The sophomore sharpshooter scored 20 points after intermission and hit four 3s during a four-minute span early in the second half to give the Tigers their first lead at 54-52 with 13:45 left.
Just three minutes later, Caird sparked MCC again with his fifth triple of the half, launching a 14-2 spurt for the Tigers, which equaled their largest lead at 75-62 with 8:35 to play before the Hawks rallied.
Caird struggled to find his stroke early and the Tigers missed their first eight free throws as the Hawks jumped out to a 16-2 lead.
Adair provided an early spark off the bench with 10 points (all in the first half) and 10 rebounds, while replacing freshman Jamal Gatali, who picked up his second foul at the 17:32 mark.
“Lamont did a nice job,” Brynjarsson said.
“He really played hard and finished some things around the rim. With his effort we were able to stay close in the first half.”
A four-point play from Matej Delinac triggered a 10-2 flurry for the Tigers, who later pulled within 32-30 on Caird’s first 3-pointer with 2:20 left before the Hawks pushed the lead to 37-32 at the break.
The Tigers made just 8-of-19 free throws in the opening stanza before finishing 26-of-41 for the game.
MCC shot just 26 percent in the first half and finished at 38 percent (33-of-88) for the game. Northeast connected on 68 percent (22-of-47) of its field goals in the second half and overtime.
“We’ve got to learn how to play through not shooting the ball well,” Brynjarsson said.
“And it’s hard to beat anybody when they shoot 30 free throws in the second half. That’s pretty hard to overcome.”
Holloway, who sustained a light ankle sprain against Ellsworth Wednesday, was back at full speed Saturday and finished with 17 points, five assists and two steals. Delinac had 11 points, while Gatali and Marlon Williams had eight apiece.
Gatali also grabbed 10 rebounds and Caird had nine.
Khapri Alson was a force inside for the Hawks with 18 points and nine boards, while Kyle Kilgore (16 points), Sean Scott (13 points) and Corey Mitchell (11 points) also hit double figures.
Sophomore guard Sean McGary had nine points, though the ICCAC’s leader in assists (7.4 per game) was limited to four and turned it over eight times.
MCC faces Southeastern on the road Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Northeast’s KJ Bluford entered Saturday as the ICCAC’s 2nd leading scorer (18 ppg). The sophomore guard has made and taken more 3s than anyone in the conference (69-of-158) and is third in accuracy (43.7 percent). Bradley men’s basketball coach Geno Ford, whose Braves played UNI in Cedar Falls earlier in the day, was in attendance at Saturday’s game. Ford was there to see Bluford according to a report from the Lincoln Journal Star.