Tigers play through frustration, down Panthers
There was nothing normal about Marshalltown Community College’s women’s basketball game against rival Ellsworth on Saturday.
The Tigers were whistled for 11 more fouls, the Panthers shot 11 more free throws than the home team and four MCC players worked around serious foul trouble for most of the second half.
But despite obvious frustration with the officials, MCC found a way to win at the Student Activity Center as the Tigers rallied from a five-point halftime deficit to beat Ellsworth, 61-50.
“Things didn’t go our way for most of the game,” MCC coach Alison Lacey said. “We didn’t pout though and we fought through it. We didn’t make excuses. We were strong in the end. That wouldn’t have happened earlier in the season.”
The Tigers (11-19, 6-10) locked up the No. 6 seed in this week’s NJCAA Division II Region XI Tournament and will play third-seeded Iowa Central in Fort Dodge at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
The loss dropped the Panthers to the eighth spot in the standings and Ellsworth will face top-seeded and second-ranked Kirkwood in the opening round Tuesday in Cedar Rapids.
The Panthers led by as many as seven in the first half before taking a five-point lead into the locker room at intermission. Ellsworth (11-19, 4-12) broke a 14-all tie with a 7-0 run and then regained a seven-point lead later following a jumper from Celine Jolicoeur.
However, a strong second half by the Tigers – led by freshman Mackenzie Gott and sophomore Shantal Tobler – MCC was able to rally for the win.
Gott gave the Tigers their first lead at 36-34 with 11:46 to play in the game. MCC went up by 12 minutes later thanks to a 19-7 spurt. The run featured six points from sophomore Shana Lee, two buckets from freshman Ashley Salgado and five more points from Gott.
Trailing 53-41 following the run, the Panthers never got closer than 11 the rest of the way and the Tigers finished off the season sweep of one of their biggest rivals.
And just a few days after shooting 26 percent in a home loss to nationally ranked DMACC, the Tigers bounce back by connecting on 41 percent from the floor.
“When we hit our shots, we are calmer and more relaxed,” Lacey said. “It’s easier to play when you shoot the ball in the basket.”
Gott led the Tigers with 17 points and eight rebounds, while sophomore Mady Van Metre added 12 and Tobler and Lee each finished with 11.
Tobler also had eight rebounds and four steals, Van Metre pulled down seven boards and Salgado scored eight points (all in the second half), collected three rebounds and dished out five assists before fouling out in the final minutes.
The Tigers spent most of the second half frustrated as they were whistled for 17 fouls in the final 20 minutes. Salgado and Latrice McMullen both fouled out and Van Metre was forced to the bench for a 9-minute stretch after picking up her fourth foul. Gott also played with four fouls.
Fortunately for MCC, the Panthers could not capitalize from the line, making only 13-of-28 in the game from the charity stripe. Ellsworth also shot just 29 percent from the floor and was 1-of-7 from long range.
Jolicoeur and Steffeny both finished with a team-high 12 points in the loss. The duo combined to hit just 6 of their 32 shots though.
Shamirah Johnson was 5-for-7 from the field and added 11 points, while Annaka Olson had 13 rebounds for the Panthers.
Lacey played five sophomores at the start of the game for Sophomore Day. The Tigers trailed 11-3 early before MCC rallied following Salgado and Gott’s entrance into the game.
Gott scored back-to-back buckets to make it 11-7 and another putback by Gott tied the game at 14.
“She is a beast,” Lacey said. “You know what you are going to get out of her. She will get you a double-double or close to it every time out.”
Gott originally came to MCC to play softball and did not join the basketball team until very late in the process. But Lacey is happy to have her.
“She has been awesome,” Lacey said. “She has been a great addition, a lucky addition. We are glad she is on this team though.”
Tobler was playing in front of a family member for the first time in her two seasons in Marshalltown. Tobler is from Florida and her brother made the trip to Iowa to see her play the final home game of her Tiger career.
“Shantal will turn the ball over because she always looks to make plays,” Lacey said of Tobler’s seven turnovers. “The good outweighs the bad though. She brings energy and a swagger to this team that we enjoy.
“It was nice to see her play well, and the rest of the sophomores play well, in front of their families. It was special to have someone here to watch Shantal, too.”
After missing out on last year’s Region XI Tournament due to NJCAA sanctions, the Tigers will compete this year. Lacey hopes her players know that every game from now on could be their last.
“This win can’t be the highlight,” Lacey said. “Like (ISU) coach (Bill) Fennelly always told us. We have to refuse to lose. The season will end but it can’t happen tonight. It doesn’t matter what our record is. In the postseason, crazy things can happen.”
There was a coach from Wayne State (Nebraska) in attendance. He was in town for recruiting purposes but said it was against NCAA rules to comment on who he was watching. … The first round of the Region XI Tournament will be played at the sites of the higher seeded teams, which are Kirkwood (1), DMACC (2), Iowa Central (3) and NIACC (4). The semifinals and championship games will all be played at Southeastern in Keokuk on Friday and Saturday. … Tobler, Lee, Van Metre, McMullen, Lauran Hansen and Shakira Slade were all honored before the game for Sophomore Day.