Tigers traipse past Penn Valley in opener

The only three players on the Marshalltown Community College women’s basketball roster with game experience were sitting next to head coach Steve Garber at tipoff of his Tiger coaching debut.

Each of them eventually made an impact on the court, but not before a freshman provided for a pressure-free premiere.

Jasmine Howe scored 14 of her game-high 23 points in the first half, including three 3-pointers, in leading Garber’s Marshalltown CC squad past Metropolitan Community College-Penn Valley 74-57 in both teams’ season-openers Saturday at the Student Activity Center.

Garber, who amassed a 230-69 record in eight seasons at Illinois Central College, liked the effort he got from of a team he had no hand in recruiting. Garber inherited the women’s basketball program on Sept. 7 after former coach Alison (Lacey) Otzelberger moved with her husband to Washington, and on Saturday he watched the parts piece themselves together following the opening whistle.

“I thought for being so dismembered with all our players in volleyball, softball and some injuries – our practices haven’t always been with the same people – that it’s just been kind of a hodgepodge through this first month,” he said. “Because of all that stuff and what I saw today, I’m very pleased with the kids, how they came together, how they stuck together.

“They were organized and they seemed to know what needed to be done and they played well as a team, so I was extremely pleased with the teamwork that was involved with all the players compared to what’s been going on in practice. I’m kind of surprised yet pleased at the same time.”

Howe hit four triples, matched the game-high with 11 rebounds, and chipped in three steals and three assists in her collegiate debut. The 5-foot-7 shooting guard from Australia showed the ability to be a scoring threat during MCC’s final scrimmage, Garber said, so her breakout performance did not come as a surprise.

“She kind of came into her own and we almost ran every offensive play through her last week,” said Garber, “so I knew she was fully capable of that. I know she’s also fully capable of drawing people to her and then dishing out to others, and when those others are open … we give them the green light to shoot the three.

“She is capable of that and she is kind of a central focus of our scoring.”

The Tigers’ top returning scorer, Mackenzie Gott, played just 14 minutes in the second half after missing the team’s morning shootaround, according to a source close to the team. The 5-11 sophomore post from Oskaloosa, who averaged a double-double a season ago, started off with another.

Gott notched 11 points and 10 rebounds, burying a jumper from the elbow at the heart of Penn Valley’s zone the first time she touched the ball. The left-hander’s shot stemmed a brief rally for the Scouts and gave MCC a 41-34 lead with 14:19 remaining in the contest.

No matter her productivity on the court, Garber made his point with Gott – and the rest of his new club – from the get-go.

“All of our things that we do as a team are important, and maybe her battery ran out on her alarm clock,” Garber grinned. “Let’s just put it that way.”

Fellow sophomores Ashley Salgado and Rusty Henio are both members of the MCC women’s volleyball team, which begins NJCAA Region XI tournament play on Tuesday night. Getting them through the game healthy, and less than exhausted, was all Garber wanted to do.

Both played 18 minutes off the bench, with Henio scoring 10 of her 11 in the first half. Salgado had four points and a game-high five assists.

With the sophomore trio sidelined to start, former area preps Danielle Mongomery and Kaleigh Sieck joined out-of-staters Ilsie Calles and Courtney Williams-Perry in the starting lineup alongside Howe, the squad’s only international recruit.

Montgomery, from BCLUW, pulled down eight rebounds, and Sieck, a South Tama graduate, got seven points.

“I tried to put the players out there who have been the hardest workers in practice, maybe not all the time the best players but the hardest workers in practice, and as a result they fed off that,” Garber said of his starting five freshmen. “I think they fed off each other’s efforts and energy.

“I’m very pleased with the players that had to endure not having the sophomores for staying organized and staying with it.”

Back-to-back buckets by Henio, also a Tama native, put MCC in front to stay, 12-9, with 14:34 left in the first half. Sieck followed with a 3-pointer and Henio had the next three points to push MCC’s lead to 18-14.

The Tigers scored six straight points – their largest spurt of the first half – to go up by 10, 26-16, and a pair of 3-pointers by Howe bookended a three-point play for Henio as Marshalltown made its way to a 36-22 halftime lead.

Penn Valley, based in Kansas City, Mo., opened with the first eight points of the second half to climb within 36-30, eventually getting within five. That’s when Gott came in off the bench to spark MCC’s offense with a true post presence, helping draw enough attention so that Calles and reserve guard Jamerka Martin could knock down consecutive 3-pointers and push the Tiger advantage back into double-digits.

Octavia Allen was one of three Penn Valley players to score in double figures, finishing with 15 points, 11 rebounds and five steals. Sykeya Horn had 13 points and Danielle Robertson added 10.

Marshalltown won’t return to the court until Thursday’s home game against the Grand View University junior varsity.

“As a team we will continue – that’s one of our goals – to get better every day,” Garber said. “Monday morning when we get up and practice we’re going to work on trying to get better, and we need more players to be better, not just five or six.

“Overall there isn’t anything I won’t sleep about, but we’ll come in and identify what individual, little things we can work on. Everybody has little skills with which to work to get better.”