J-Hawks cut down MHS momentum

Utilizing a different combination in the starting five yielded one of the Bobcats’ best first halves of the season.

Kyra Hungerford scored nine first-half points in her first start of the year and Rachel Blagg provided a quick spark off the bench with six points in the opening frame.

Though that momentum carried over for only so long as some familiar issues arose for the Marshalltown girls’ basketball team after halftime.

Thwarted by a tighter defensive look that resulted in just 12 second-half points, the Bobcats dropped a golden opportunity for their fourth win in a 57-38 loss to Urbandale in a Central Iowa Conference cross-divisional contest at the Roundhouse Saturday.

The J-Hawks scored 11 straight during a 1 1/2 minute-span in the third to stretch a one-point lead to 42-30 late in the quarter. Mykaela Cole, Andie Mataloni and Mallary Erbes each made a 3-pointer during the spurt and Cole capped the frame with one more to widen the margin to 47-31.

Cole scored all 12 of her points from beyond the arc and Mataloni shot 8-for-8 at the line for her game-high 14 as the J-Hawks (2-10) never trailed and snapped a five-game skid while pushing the Bobcats’ slide to five.

“We had a great first half,” said MHS coach Stacy O’Hare. “In the first half we were spreading the floor and doing a nice job of getting everyone involved in the offense and moving the ball. The second half, we didn’t do that. We didn’t keep our spacing.”

Marshalltown (3-10) never drew closer than 14 in the fourth as both Sam and Amanda Hughes battled foul trouble much of the evening before each picked up their fifth foul in the final minute.

Amanda Hughes paced the Bobcats with 11 points and two steals and Hungerford drilled a trio of treys for her nine. Sam Hughes added eight points, five rebounds and five blocks but watched the J-Hawks’ big run from the bench after picking up her third foul less than 2 minutes into the third.

Urbandale stiffened up its defense after halftime while continuing to methodically work the ball around the perimeter before finding a quality shot or earning a trip to the line where they finished 18-of-22.

“They changed up what they were doing and we didn’t,” said Amanda Hughes of the J-Hawks’ tighter defense. “We came out a little unprepared for that.”

The Bobcats were ready the first time the J-Hawks tried to pull away.

Hungerford’s third 3 of the first half preceded another from Amanda Hughes stemming Urbandale’s early threat to claim a double-digit advantage midway through the second. Hughes scored the next four for Marshalltown with her drive to the hoop leveling the score at 26-all.

Trailing by three at the half, the Bobcats came within one twice early in the third with a pair of free throws by Amanda Hughes bringing the score to 31-30 before the J-Hawks got hot from outside.

Passing its away around the Bobcats’ 2-3 zone before finding the look they wanted, Urbandale was efficient with each possession, while making sure Sam Hughes – coming off a 15-point effort against Johnston Friday, wouldn’t find many easy looks inside.

“Our big adjustments were making sure we were in the right spot defensively and being in help side defense,” said Urbandale coach Gary Birdwell. “We had a really hard time with (Sam Hughes) because she posts up so strong. She is a tough person to guard. … We tried to tell our posts to not just let her waltz down and let her start where she wanted to.”

O’Hare wanted more touches for her 5-foot-11 junior, which in turn would free up some looks for the rest of the squad.

“When you recognize somebody like Sam inside, you have to get her the ball when she’s open,” O’Hare said. “If we could have gotten her the ball more, she’s either going to score or she’s going to get fouled and that’s going to open up the perimeter game. We just didn’t do that. You can’t have single-digit quarters and expect to beat anybody.”

Mallary Erbes and Mackenzie Brees each scored nine for Urbandale, while Blagg finished with seven for Marshalltown and Molly Major chipped in three.

Marshalltown hosts Cedar Falls Tuesday before traveling to Mason City Friday. Both games tip-off at 6:15 p.m.

While win opportunities like Saturday come few and far between in the CIML, O’Hare saw some elements to build from.

“It’s definitely a letdown because we don’t get in the win column but there were still some good things,” O’Hare said. “The first half we played well – we were scoring, playing good defense. We just have to find a way to play four quarters of basketball.”