MIAMI - After a sluggish start in the first two minutes, the Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College Lady Norse extended their current home court winning streak to 45-game winning streak with a 78-50 victory over Northern Oklahoma College-Tonkawa here Monday, Feb. 5.
Sitting atop the Oklahoma Collegiate Athletic Conference with a 10-0 record, the Lady Norse are 18-4 on the season. The Lady Norse faced Seminole State College Thursday, Feb. 8 in the Raymond C. Harbor Field House.
Winners of all eight home games this season, the Lady Norse received votes in the National Junior College Athletic Association Women's Division I weekly national poll.
"Once again, we came out and didn't play very well in the first few minutes of the first quarter," Lady Norse head coach Jim Rowland said. "In our defense, we didn't have class today (Monday) because of the snow.
"We got out of our routine of waking up, going to class and being up all day," Rowland said. "We didn't have to do anything but, get up, eat breakfast, go back to sleep and then have our shoot around at 1:30 in the gym. Still, no excuses."
The Lady Mavericks broke the scoring drought with a 10-5 run in a five-minute period of the first quarter. Six points by guard Sabela Pernas and four by Tahanee Bennell fueled the Northern advantage.
Relying on a height advantage in the paint, the Lady Norse responded with two field goals each by MIkayla Shulanberger, Bethy Mununga and Mariam Gnanou, along with a steal and a layup by Megan Jackson, to grab a 14-10 lead heading into the second quarter.
Mununga and Gnanou continued to dominate the middle in the second 10 minutes while the NEO defense smothered the Lady Mavericks offense.
"Our defense got a couple of stops late in the first quarter that allowed our offense to get going," Rowland said. "We held them to only seven points in the second quarter because of our defense.
"That really carried through the rest of the game," Rowland said. "That's going to be that way in every game. We've got to play defense."
With 16 points and nine rebounds in the first 20 minutes, Mununga totally shut down NOC's inside game.
Gnanou contributed 10 points, four rebounds and four blocked shots in the first two quarters as the Lady Norse carried a 37-17 cushion to the locker room at halftime.
"We started off slow, but we really locked in defensively in the second quarter," Rowland said. "Then, we started the second half slow again before our defense asserted itself and got our offense untracked."
Rowland took a time out after the Lady Mavericks kept hanging around early in the third quarter.
"I was forced to call a time out and remind our girls that they needed to put the nail in the coffin," Rowland said. "I look up and they are only down by 12 (34-22).
"After the time out, I thought we did a good job of retaking control of the game," Rowland said. "We refocused and played better defense the rest of the game."
NEO's largest lead of the game (72-38) came with 3:37 left. Both teams tallied 19 points during the fourth quarter.
Gnanou led both teams with 27 points while grabbing 10 rebounding and making five blocked shots.
Mununga contributed 22 points and 13 rebounds for the Lady Norse while Shulanberger scored 10 points.
Others with points for NEO were Jackson with eight, Eneritz Larranaga with six, Amare Weary and Morgan Lutes with two each and Lidia Gurial with one.
The Lady Norse connected on 31 of 66, including only 1 of 16 from the 3-point arc, for 47 percent from the field. NEO sank 15 of 22 for 68 percent at the free throw line.
Bennell recorded 17 points and eight rebounds to lead the Lady Mavericks.