Given a day between games to make some adjustments, the North Nodaway girls basketball team stepped up its level of play tremendously.
After struggling to put away West Nodaway in its Northwest Missouri Tournament opener, the Lady Mustangs built a 15-point halftime lead on Northeast Nodaway and kept adding to it throughout most of the second half for a dominating 54-24 win Wednesday night.
The Mustangs outscored NEN by at least six points in all four quarters and gained as much as a 30 point lead early in the fourth.
With the win, North Nodaway (7-2) earned a spot in Friday night's championship game to play Nodaway-Holt. Northeast Nodaway (3-5) will take on Craig-Fairfax in the third place game Saturday at 6:30 p.m.
"We got kind of a young team, and their mental approach is the whole thing," said North Nodaway head girls coach Doug Freemyer. "Whenever they come out and play intense, we create turnovers usually. I don't think (NEN) had their best game. I know they can play better and he's a good coach. I just think we were more focused and just more intense tonight."
The Lady Mustangs were keyed by their full-court pressure defense which they used non-stop through the first three-plus quarters.
Never able to consistently break it, NEN committed 35 turnovers and had more in each half than shot attempts.
The result was a game where they scored eight points or fewer in all four quarters.
"It's just a mental breakdown," said NEN head coach Vance Proffitt. "We're struggling to learn how to do things ourselves without trusting one or two girls do it for you. We'll learn. We'll get better and learn from our mistakes."
NEN also had a difficult time keeping North Nodaway off the offensive glass.
Second chance points were plentiful for North Nodaway, and five of them came in the final seconds of the first two quarters.
"We're containing very well until the shot goes up and then we're missing those second chances," said Proffitt. "We're just giving up way too many of them, and it's things they got to do. If not, we're going to find somebody that can do it."
With a mix of long-range shooting and hard drives to the basket, North Nodaway junior guard Cambry Schluter led all scorers in the game with 23 points. She hit three, 3-pointers for the second game in a row and increased her tournament average to 20.5 points.
"She looks to drive and she's stronger physically then she was last year," said Freemyer. "She came out of softball more beat up than she is this year. Physically, I think she feels better."
Page 2 of 2 - Junior guard Erin Greeley finished with nine points. Senior guard Leslie Birkenholz added eight points.
NEN's high scorer was Dallis Coffelt with seven points. Taryn Farnan and Holly Redden each had five points.
Farnan, NEN's leading scorer, was held without another field goal after making the opening basket of the game to give NEN its only lead of 2-0.
Schluter's first three began a run of eight straight points for the Mustangs that made it 8-2 with 3:44 left.
After an NEN timeout, the Ladyjays ran off six straight points to forge an 8-8 tie with 58.2 seconds left in the first.
That's when the Lady Mustangs grabbed control with a run of 10 straight points. Schluter hit her second three on the next possession and a three-point play by Birkenholz in the final seconds gave North Nodaway a 14-8 lead.
Baskets by Greeley and Brittany Bix to open the second quarter made it 18-8.
A three-point play by Schluter later in the quarter put the Mustangs up by double-digits to stay.
Their halftime lead was 29-14.
North Nodaway opened up as much as a 24 point lead in the third quarter and finished it ahead 43-21.
Seven straight points by Schluter in the fourth pumped the Mustang lead to 52-22, setting a running clock in motion.
"Our girls needed a chance to play a little bit tonight, and we wanted to work on our stuff," said Freemyer. "The score kind of got a little bit out of hand at the end. They're a good team. We'll play them again this year, and I know it will be a tough game."
Nodaway-Holt 50 South Nodaway 27
The Lady Trojans forged their way into the tournament finals with a dominant victory over South Nodaway Wednesday night.
Nodaway-Holt led 27-8 at the half and 46-12 at the end of the third quarter.
Nodaway-Holt's Megan Rosenbohm scored a game-high 20 points. Kali Devers had nine points and Krysta Beattie finished with eight points.
Leann Walker scored nine fourth quarter points to lead the Longhorns with 11. She hit three, 3-pointers in the game.
South Nodaway matches up with West Nodaway in the consolation game Friday at 5 p.m.