KING CITY, Mo. — The Northeast Nodaway girls basketball team hadn’t been on the court together since last Thursday’s game against Jefferson, when they opened first round of the King City Tournament on Wednesday.
The winter weather conditions caused the tournament to be pushed back two days. The time off showed early in the third-seeded Bluejays’ opening game against sixth-seeded Albany, but Northeast Nodaway was able to find its rhythm and pull away for a 53-33 win.
The rust was evident in the first quarter with Albany jumping out to a 10-7 first-quarter lead behind five points from sophomore Gabby Newman. During that quarter, the Jays were able to generate good shots, but they missed several open point-blank shots.
“I think the snow days really put us behind,” Northeast Nodaway senior Makayla Adwell said. “But after halftime, we came out and we knew what we wanted to do after that.”
It seemed like the change in quarter jump-started the Bluejays and it began with leading-scorer Madelynn Mattson finding her shooting stroke. She got to the free-throw line on the first possession of the quarter and made both.
The sophomore center then drew the defense and dished a pass to sophomore guard Paige West, who gave the team a lead at 11-10. Newman answered with a basket, but an Adwell free throw and a Mattson bucket put Northeast Nodaway back in front at 14-12.
“We had to tell ourselves that eventually we were going to hit (our shots),” Mattson said. “We just had to set our feet and get our feet under us.”
After the teams went back and forth, sophomore Blair Stoll gave the team the lead for good with a three and West made the margin 21-17. The Jays took their largest lead of the half into the locker room at 24-19.
“That second quarter, we finally got the zone figured out,” Northeast Nodaway coach Joyce Stiens said. “We had had some really good passing, finished inside, got the stops we needed to and it just kind of continued the whole game."
Mattson’s passing ability was again on display early in the third quarter as she found Adwell for a pair of baskets and a 28-21 lead.
“Definitely, getting my teammates the ball is one of my favorite things to do,” Mattson said. “I can always count on them.”
The Warriors had a quick 5-0 run from junior Abby Landuyt to pull back within 28-26.
Mattson began to find her own shot after that and the Warriors had no answer. She also found her mid-range shot, which allows her more room to operate when the defense isn’t collapsed on her.
“It definitely helps,” Mattson said. “Especially when I’m not hitting inside, it is actually really a confidence-boaster to go out there.”
Mattson scored a pair of quick baskets and then set the table for the rare five-point play as she drew a foul while finishing a layup. She missed the free throw, but senior Gerry Runde got the put-back while drawing another foul and knocked down her free throw for a 37-28 lead.
The Jays got contributions from the bench throughout the game. Sophomore Alba Vozmediario capped the third quarter with a three-point play and sophomore Angela Standiford opened the fourth with a basket for a 42-28 lead.
“We have three or four girls that can come off the bench and carry some minutes for us,” Stiens said. “ They play really good defense. They can match up with people and play those zones for us. And they are starting to score some points for us and that is big.”
All-in-all, it was a 23-3 run for the Jays from midway through the third quarter until midway through the fourth quarter when Stiens pulled her starters with the lead at 51-29.
Mattson led all scorers with 20 points while Runde had eight points, Adwell had seven, West had six, Vozmediario had five, Stoll had three and Standiford and Ilenia Ricci each had two.
“Overall, this is one of those games where everyone contributed what they needed to tonight,” Stiens said. “And that makes it really easy to win.”
Newman led Albany with 10 points — but was held scoreless in the second half.
Northeast Nodaway will play second-seeded South Holt on Thursday at 7:30 p.m., while Albany will play seventh-seeded Stewartsville at the same time.