HOPKINS, Mo. — The North Nodaway Mustangs (5-1) picked up their third-straight win on Tuesday night in Hopkins, but this one was a bit extra special as the Mustangs knocked off defending state champion Mound City, 43-32.
“We are coming in here and doing things that other people think we aren’t going to do and it is just really exciting,” North Nodaway senior Keagan O’Riley said.
The Panthers (3-3) are not the same team that they were a year ago, but behind returning All-State point guard Victoria Nauman, Mound City is still a team with plenty of talent.
“That is a really big win for us,” North Nodaway coach Sami Jackson said. “It is not always about who you are playing, it is about how you play, how you come out and the statements you are making. We are just coming out and looking to go 1-0 on the day and be somebody that everyone has to look out for.”
The Mustangs grabbed control of the game in the first quarter by working the ball inside to senior center Ashley Thompson for four points and a quick start by O’Riley, the team’s point guard, with five points. The Mustangs held a 10-5 lead after the opening quarter.
Baskets by Nauman and senior Paige Quilty quickly sliced the lead to 10-9 early in the second quarter, but North Nodaway had the answer with their inside-out game and senior Audrey Trimble fed Thompson for a bucket before Thompson returned the favor with a kick-out to Trimble for a mid-range jumper.
“Tonight, Ashley was working for us,” Jackson said. “She did a really good job of being patient and putting the ball in the hoop.”
Nauman came back down with a three and Panther senior Kinsee Knapp connected on a free throw to bring Mound City within one, but this time it was the most versatile weapon in Jackson’s arsenal who provided the Mustang response. Senior forward Kristin Herndon pulled up from the short-corner for two then was fouled and knocked down a pair.
“Kristin is our utility player,” Jackson said. “We ask her to do something and she is going to do it.”
O’Riley grabbed a steal and took it in for a layup before Mustang freshman Saylor Brown ended the half by knocking down a three to close a 9-0 run and put the Mustangs comfortably in front 23-13 at halftime.
Quilty did her best to keep the Panthers in the game in the third quarter as she scored her team’s first 10 points of the second half, but the rest of the Panther offense couldn’t find any space against the Mustang defense. They particularly focused their efforts on Nauman, who was held to just five points total and none in the second half.
“Our guards put in a lot of work defensively on that court,” Jackson said. “A girl like Nauman is really hard to guard and Keagan, Audrey and Kandace (Damgar), they knew where she was and they shut her down as well as they could all night long.”
A Quilty three cut the North Nodaway lead to just 27-23, but again Thompson was able to jump-start a run. She scored on the inside, then Herndon found space for a three. The quarter ended with running three from O’Riley banking in to beat the buzzer and the Mustang lead was double figures once more at 35-23.
“Honestly, I didn’t think it was going to go in, but I was so excited that it did,” O’Riley said.
The first six points of the fourth quarter went to Mound City to cut the lead in half, but again, it was who proved to be too much. The Mustangs went to their center and she was fouled inside. Thompson made the first foul shot and missed the second, but Trimble took a move out of Thompson’s playbook and grabbed the offensive rebound and scored on the put-back.
“It isn’t just Ashley,” Jackson said of the team’s rebounding. “Ashley is a beast on the boards, but our guards are getting in there and Audrey is getting everything she can. That is huge for us.”
After Quilty made a free throw, Thompson came down and scored again and then Herndon put one in for a 42-30 lead. Quilty hit a basket and O’Riley made a free throw for the final 43-32 margin.
“That is huge for our confidence,” Herndon said. “It just gets the ball rolling so we can keep going on and play against other teams like East Atchison and other higher up teams in our conference.”
O’Riley led the Mustangs in scoring with 13 while Thompson and Herndon providing a balanced scoring load with 11 and nine respectively. The team’s top three-point shooters — Kandace Damgar and Trimble — were held without a three, but that shows the diversity of the Mustangs offense.
“Our shots weren’t falling, but once we started swinging it around, we could get it into the middle and they’d double,” Herndon said. “Then we could kick it out.”
Trimble and Brown each had four and Damgar rounded out the scoring with two.
Quilty had a game-high 19 points for the Panthers, but the next highest scorer was Nauman with five. Hannah Wedlock and Knapp each had three and Kendall Hux added two.
The Panthers with be back in action on Friday against South Holt while North Nodaway will host Cainsville on Thursday and Union Star on Friday.
“There is no limit to how well we can play,” Herndon said. “We keep tapping into and unlocking that potential and we will keep rising up even higher.”