Top-ranked NIACC tames turnover-plagued Tigers

Lose track of a player and they’re getting a layup.

Provide too much help-side defense and they’ll bury a 3-pointer.

Send them to the free-throw line and the Trojans will sink you.

The North Iowa Area Community College women’s basketball team has been too hard to guard for every team it has encountered this season. The Marshalltown CC Tigers have now experienced it firsthand.

Top-ranked NIACC knocked down nine 3-pointers, shot 20-of-22 from the free-throw line and took advantage of the host Tigers’ 37 turnovers in a 99-77 victory in Iowa Community College Athletic Conference Division II play Saturday at the Student Activity Center.

The Trojans (14-1, 3-0) never trailed in both teams’ first game back from the holiday break, using an early 10-0 run to gain a double-digit lead that never again dwindled below six the rest of the contest. NIACC point guard Chelsey Jacox scored a game-high 23 points and led her team with six assists, as the nation’s highest-scoring club held off a resilient Marshalltown squad.

MCC (10-3, 1-2) trailed by as many as 16 points in the first half but got a boost from its bench when leading scorer Jasmin Howe checked in. The freshman from Australia scored 12 of her 17 points before the break, including a pair of 3-pointers that helped to stem NIACC’s early tide.

“I thought Marshalltown was playing well, but we weren’t happy with how we were playing (in the first half),” said NIACC third-year coach Kelli Terrell. “An outsider looks at the stats and sees 19 turnovers (forced), up by 10, 47 points, but we weren’t playing our best.

“I don’t know if you want to call it a good halftime speech. It was about 10 seconds long and a broken clipboard came out of the deal, but they responded and we came out with more energy (in the second half) so I think that’s what ended up winning it for us.”

No matter how many times the Tigers rallied, they were undone by their own inability to deal with NIACC’s relentless, full-court press. The Trojans – who entered averaging 101.9 points per game – trapped in all the corners and smothered MCC to the tune of 19 turnovers in the first half and 18 more after intermission.

The 37 giveaways equaled a painful statistic for a head coach who had devoted a week’s worth of practice preparing his team for NIACC’s type of heat.

“Just being able to handle the ball, that’s as simple as it got,” said MCC’s Steve Garber, in his first year with the program. “We had spurts where we handled it well and spurts where we didn’t handle it well. We just had lapses, too many lapses of people not focused and turning the ball over.

“We practiced passing out of traps, not turning the ball over. That was our whole focus all week long, and when we focus on that all week long and still have 37 turnovers, what’s a person to do? We’ve just got to get better, handling the ball better and more than anything we’ve got to get stronger between the ears. We have to get mentally tougher to compete in conference.”

NIACC fired out of the break with the first five points before MCC responded with a 10-2 surge of its own. Jamerka Martin made one of her five 3-pointers and Courtney Williams-Perry pounded the boards, pulling the Tigers to within 53-46.

Another Martin trey made it 57-51, but Marshalltown committed turnovers on eight of its next nine possessions and the Trojans’ lead ballooned from six to 15 in a three-and-a-half minute stretch.

Six straight points – two short jumpers for Mackenzie Gott and a bucket from Rusty Henio – got MCC within single digits for the final time, 68-59, with 9:35 remaining.

One last 8-0 run for NIACC, capped by Cortni Rush’s third 3-pointer, moved the margin to 20 with less than 6 minutes left. Rush, a freshman from Mason City, tallied 15 points off the bench.

“We hit some outside shots and that’s part of our game, that’s not a secret to anybody,” said Terrell. “Once we started hitting those, that automatically boosted our energy.

“We know who our shooters are, and everyone else does to. It’s written all over who does what, but we just keep telling them to keep running, keep playing our game. We feel we have a stronger bench than other teams so we just keep going and going and going. If our energy drops, we have our bench to rely on and they’re hungry.”

Lateeka Thompson chipped in 11 points and six steals, and Ashleigh Onaca added 10 points for the Trojans, whose only loss was an 82-81 defeat at the hands of No. 6 Illinois Central on a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Martin finished with a career-high 21 points – 16 in the second half – to lead MCC in its second consecutive loss. Howe had 17 points, Gott tallied 12 points, while Courtney Williams-Perry posted career-highs of 11 points and 19 rebounds (eight offensive) for the double-double.

Ashley Salgado, the conference’s assists leader, tallied seven points and nine helpers.

“If you don’t turn the ball over you can get some shots,” Garber said. “We’ve got to be mentally tougher, because we handled (NIACC’s pressure) at times very well and other times we didn’t, and those lapses are mental lapses.”

Marshalltown, which fell 113-70 to No. 14 Iowa Central before the break, follows up Saturday’s loss with a road trip to No. 2 Kirkwood (13-3, 2-1) on Wednesday. The Eagles, who have reigned supreme with 10 of the last 12 NJCAA D-II Region XI titles, lost by four in overtime to NIACC in mid-December.

“We played Iowa Central and got bombarded. We kept warning the girls that these games are going to be wake-up calls,” Garber said. “Region XI is one of the top regions in the country, there’s not too many breaks. We’ve got to get this program to where the mentality is, ‘That’s fine, bring everybody on.’

“We’re at Kirkwood then we host DMACC next Saturday. We’ve got four of the top teams (in the conference) to start, just throwing us to the wolves and we have to learn. It’s the response to that is what matters, how we deal with the difficulties and the obstacles with four good, solid teams. We have to learn from it. We have to respond appropriately.”


MCC freshman Kaleigh Sieck, a Toledo native and South Tama County graduate, went 4-for-4 from the free-throw line to extend her consecutive makes streak to 20. She’s shooting 89.5 percent from the charity stripe – third-best in the nation. … The Tigers were without the services of 6-foot-2 freshman center Danielle Montgomery (Beaman, BCLUW), who was due to return from a family vacation on Saturday night. Garber said there would be no team penalty for Montgomery since she informed the coach of the trip when he recruited her in the hallway at MCC. “It was an agreement, and it was a good agreement I think,” Garber said. “She’s done a very good job for us.” … Jacox ranks third in the country now averaging 22 points per game. … The Trojans’ average margin of victory is 37.2 points.