BURLINGTON JUNCTION—Down as many as 19 points in the third quarter, West Nodaway's girls basketball team refused to go quietly in its first pool play game of the Northwest Missouri Tournament Monday night.
The scrappy Rockets sawed the deficit down to eight in the fourth quarter and had chances to draw even closer before time ran out on them in a 42-33 loss to higher-seeded North Nodaway.
West Nodaway (0-5) outscored North Nodaway (5-2) by seven points in the second half and gave the Mustangs a much more difficult time than they did previously at the Mound City Tournament. North Nodaway won that game by 19 points.
"We played much better (than the first time)," said West Nodaway head coach Dean Anderson. "Our intensity was better. We just did better things especially on defense."
The Rockets faced an 11-point deficit going to the fourth quarter and got it to single-digits for the first time since late in the first quarter on a three-point play by senior forward Deanna Harvey with 5:47 left.
After a two-minute drought kept the score at 35-26, the two teams exchanged baskets on three straight possessions.
The Rockets pulled within eight twice on a three by Marjorie Kent and a follow by Harvey.
Both times the Mustangs answered, first with two free throws by Cambry Schluter and then with a three-pointer by Leslie Birkenholz to make it 42-31 with under three minutes left.
This proved to be the dagger.
Birkenholz' three was her second of the game and fifth by the Lady Mustangs.
Schluter made the other three and finished with a game-high 18 points. Birkenholz totaled 13 points.
"We should shoot more three's because that's the only thing we could make tonight," said North Nodaway head coach Doug Freemyer. "They played good. We played bad. It made for a rough game for us. Even though we won, we should've played better."
West Nodaway was led by Harvey with 10 points, eight coming in the first half. Marissa Perkins finished with eight points. Melody McGinness, Kent and Cordell each had five.
The Rockets 23 point second half total nearly doubled their first half output of 12.
They also limited the Mustangs to 16 points and caused havoc with their pressure defense.
"We picked it up more and our shots were beginning to fall a little bit more," said Anderson.
Never behind in the game, North Nodaway came out scorching from outside and scored the first 10 points.
Schluter hit her first two three's during that span.
Harvey scored West Nodaway's only three first quarter field goals, all on leak-out layups.
Page 2 of 2 - The Mustangs finished the fast-paced quarter up 14-6.
After a prolonged stretch of sloppy offensive play, North Nodaway scored seven quick points to build its lead to 21-6.
A jumper by Alyson Dye gave West Nodaway its first second quarter points with 2:44 left.
The Mustangs went to the half up 28-12 on a buzzer-beating three by Schluter—her third of the half.
Schluter's only second half field goal put the Mustangs up 18 early in the third and the lead reached 19 points on a three by Birkenholz.
West Nodaway scored the next seven points to get within 12 and a jumper by Cordell to end the quarter closed the gap to 34-23.
The Rockets kept the pressure on in the fourth and made North Nodaway work until the end.
"We're going to be very competitive when that basketball starts to fall more for us," said Anderson.
West Nodaway concludes pool play tonight at 7:30 p.m. against Northeast Nodaway. The Mustangs are off until Wednesday when they take on Northeast Nodaway at 4:30 p.m.