As bad as the first seven-plus minutes went, Mark Kellogg's head coaching debut at Northwest Missouri State had disaster written all over it.
In a rather stunning reversal of fortune that took place from that point forward, the Bearcats and their first-year coach were all smiles by the end of the night.
Sparked by unsung reserve guard Meridee Scott, the Bearcats wiped out a 13-point deficit by halftime and controlled most of the second half to land a 65-50 win over Quincy Friday in the season opener at Bearcat Arena.
A last-place finisher in the MIAA last season, Northwest (1-0) moved over the .500 mark for the first time since its 2010-2011 Final Four campaign against an opponent that was coming off a second round appearance in the NCAA Division II Tournament.
Now 1-0 in his Northwest tenure, Kellogg exchanged high-five's with all of his players in the final minute of a game the Bearcats had well under wraps at that point.
"It's a great feeling," said Kellogg. "You compete for those moments and that's what we're trying to get them to understand, how hard you have to work to get to that moment. It wasn't at halftime when we had the one-point lead. It was let's do it for 40 and then the feeling when you're high-fiving people when you're coming back to the locker room is even extra special."
After falling behind 15-2 with 12:24 left in the first half, the Bearcats outscored Quincy by 14 points the rest of the half and 28 the rest of the way.
They were at their best in the second half, outscoring Quincy 38-24 to build as much as a 19-point lead.
Northwest shot 57 percent from the field in the second half, hit 4-8 three's and held Quincy to 7-32 shooting.
For the game, the Hawks shot just 29 percent and had nobody in double-figures.
Quincy's 50-point total was the fewest given up by Northwest since a 61-50 win over Pittsburg State on Feb. 5, 2011.
The quicker Bearcats also forced 20 turnovers and finished with a decided 25-1 edge in points off turnovers.
"We competed and that's probably what I was most proud of because I didn't know if we could elevate, if we could compete at that level," said Kellogg. "I thought we did defensively. If we (hold teams to 50 points), we're going to be in every game."
Quincy (0-1) took what turned out to be its only lead of the second half on an opening possession three by Tiara Thomas.
The Bearcats scored the next 10 points—the final eight from freshman guard Tember Schechinger—to grab a 37-29 lead with 17:22 left.
Three separate times, Quincy closed to within three points, but never any closer.
Northwest separated for good with a 15-3 run occurring over a six-plus minute stretch, consisting of six layups and an Ashleigh Nelson three.
Northwest's lead stayed above 12 points over the final 6:06.
A left wing three by Scott—her only one of a carer-best 21-point night—provided a fitting exclamation point.
Scott, who finished 8-13 from the field, scored the rest of her points on shots around the basket or at the foul line where she was 4-5.
"It was a great feeling because the crowd got into it," said Scott, a Maryville native. "So did the bench. Everyone that was there helped bring momentum to our success tonight."
A career 1.8 point per game scorer, Scott has now led Northwest in scoring in back-to-back games.
She had 16 in the team's exhibition win over Peru State.
"She's long. She's athletic. She can make plays. She's a really good defender," said Kellogg. "But she's just playing with confidence. It's amazing what kids can do when you give them the ability to clear their mind and play with confidence. Her mind is free right now and she's just playing the game."
Scott led a trio of Bearcat double-digit scorers.
In her Bearcat debut, Schechinger finished with 14 points on 6-8 shooting and grabbed a team-high eight rebounds. She had 12 second-half points.
Nelson added 10 points, and sophomore Maggie Marnin fell just short of double-figures with nine.
Both sophomores were 4-7 from the field.
Four other Bearcats chipped in between two and four points.
"We're not going to have anybody average 16 or 17 or 18 points per game," said Kellogg. "We're doing this by committee and it's going to be somebody different every night. It was Meridee's night tonight and Tember got it going after a little bit, too. We'll have to stay with be excited about it because everyone's night is coming."
Quincy beat Northwest in only one phase and that was on the boards, finishing with a 48-29 edge.
Lucy Cramsey had a game-high 11 rebounds to go with a team-high eight points. Thomas also had eight points.
"It was a team effort," said Scott. "We've been working really hard in practices especially in preseason. We did a lot of running. I think that helped contribute to our stamina. It was just a really good team effort."
Northwest's superiority took some time to show through.
Early on, the Bearcats resembled the same slow-starting bunch as last year, falling behind 15-2 with 12:24 left in the first half.
Kellogg called his second timeout at that juncture and inserted Scott into the game.
And the Bearcats just took off.
A three by Ashleigh Nelson, four points from Scott and a high-arching three by Monique Stevens comprised a 10-0 run that pulled Northwest within three.
"Meridee got it going and then I just thought it opened up for everybody," said Kellogg. "It calmed everyone else down because we were going way to fast start at the start of the game. Offensively, it was one pass, terrible shot, one pass, terrible shot. We were giving up shots defensively. We got out of the little press, went man and just kind of challenged them to defend one-on-one."
Back-to-back layups by Scott gave Northwest its first lead of 18-17 with 7:40 left in the first half and culminated a 16-2 run.
Quincy took a pair of one-point leads before a Marnin layup provided the final lead change of the first half.
A layup by Thomas trimmed Northwest's halftime lead to 27-26.
The lead changed hands twice in the opening minutes of the second half, and then it was all Northwest.
"We just want to build off of it," said Kellogg. "I don't want to be a one-hit wonder. You play what you think is pretty well. Don't read too much into it, but enjoy it. This team probably needs confidence and so if its provides that, that's great."
Northwest is back in action tonight with a home game against Tabor at 7 p.m.
By Joey Falkoff email@example.com
The Maryville Daily Forum - Maryville, MO
By Joey Falkoff firstname.lastname@example.org
Updated Nov. 12, 2012 @ 7:42 pm
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