JOPLIN, Mo. — Two teams representing Region 2 dominated the inaugural Battle on the Border after the No. 23 Northeastern A&M College’s Lady Norse defeated 14th-rated State Fair (Missouri) Community College 94-86 in overtime Saturday evening in the Multipurpose Building on the campus Ozark Christian College.
Both the NEO Lady Norse and the Northern Oklahoma College-Enid Lady Jets won two games during the eight-team classic which featured four teams from Oklahoma (Region 2) and four from Missouri (Region 16).
Teams from Region 2 won five of the eight games.
The Lady Norse (10-3), in the midst of a six-game winning streak, take a two-week break for the Christmas holidays before returning Tuesday, Dec. 29.
The Lady Norse travel to Parsons, Kansas, on Jan 4, for a rematch with the Labette Community College Lady Cardinals.
“They’ll come back that Tuesday and we’ll start getting ourselves ready, not only for the Labette game, but for a very competitive Oklahoma Collegiate Athletic Conference schedule,” Lady Norse head coach Jim Rowland said. “The bad thing about this break is that we’re playing well right now and then all of a sudden you have to stop.
“I’m used to it having been here for so long,” Rowland said. “But, as a coach, you never know how your team will respond once they come back.”
The overtime victory over the State Fair Roadrunners (13-3) came after the Lady Norse needed an extra five-minute period to defeat Crowder (Missouri) College 90-83 in Friday’s opening game.
“When you go an overtime game that didn’t need to be an overtime game for the second night in a row, you have to feel pretty good as a coach,” Rowland said. “But our inability to hit free throws down the stretch caused this game to go into overtime.
“We were up 77-70 with only 24 seconds left in the game and they responded by hitting two 3-pointers and a free throw to create the overtime period,” Rowland said. “If we would have made our free throw opportunities instead of missing them, the game would have been under control.”
After Sierra Clayborn canned a 3-pointer at the buzzer to produce a 77-77 tie, the Lady Norse opened up an 85-79 lead in the first two minutes on 3-point field goals by Kamry Chamberlain and Melinda Murillo and a layup by Hattie Nawezhi.
Over the final two minutes, the Lady Norse received a layup and solo free throw by Maria Delgado, along with four free throws by Murillo and two free shots by Shalie McAlister, to hold the Roadrunners at bay.
“We’re shooting 61 percent as a team from the free throw line right now,” Rowland said. “We got to be better than that because good teams will beat you if you don’t knock down your free throws.”
During the first four minutes of the opening quarter, the Roadrunners jumped out to an 11-2 cushion on six points by Alexis Cowan, a 3-pointer by Clayborn and a putback by Thelma Williams.
A field goal and free throw by Chamberlain, along with a 3-pointer by Murillo, rallied NEO to an 18-11 deficit at the end of the first quarter.
Freshman quarter Jennah Coffman sank a 3-pointer and Delgado added a layup plus free throw as the Lady Norse trailed 20-17 with 8:06 until halftime.
Scoring twice inside the paint by Nowezhi and a 3-pointer by Chamberlain rallied NEO to a 25-24 deficit with 5:40 before intermission.
NEO’s first lead at 28-25 occurred after a driving layup by Delgado and a basket by Nowezhi at the 3:58 juncture.
Freshman Shannon Mitchell canned a 3-pointer and added a layup as the Lady Norse built a 33-26 margin with 2:52 before half.
Clayborn connected on two 3-pointers and Williams added a layup and a free throw as the Roadrunners escaped with a 35-33 lead after two quarters.
With four ties and seven lead changes during the third quarter, neither team could establish any defensive superiority. With the score tied at 50-50, NEO’s Mitchell sank a layup and a free throw and Mariah Green hit a short jump shot to give NEO a 55-51 lead entering the fourth quarter.
Newezhi scored 28 points and contributed 10 rebounds to lead both teams while Delgado contributed 21 points, Chamberlain 12, Murillo 11, Mitchell nine, McAlister five, Green five and Coffman three.
“Hatty did an excellent job,” Rowland said. “She also contributed four blocked shots and State Fair didn’t have an answer for her.”
Sierra Clayborn tallied 24 points to lead the Roadrunners and Dickerson contributed 23.