HIBBING — The Northland Community College women’s basketball team has had some tough losses recently, so Pioneer coach Shannon Nelson wanted to see her team break into the win column.
Northland cured some of its ills against Hibbing Community College, starting fast then cruising to a 67-25 victory over the Cardinals in an MCAC Northern Division contest Wednesday at Dick Varichak Gymnasium.
The game gave the Pioneers a chance to work out some of the kinks.
“We executed our offenses well,” Nelson said. “We took care of the ball well. We moved the ball and shared it well. Defensively, I thought we did our job, too. We mixed defenses up a little bit, and we got to work on some defenses that we haven’t been able to run a lot lately.
“It was a good team effort. We got a lot of players in.”
Right from the opening tap, Northland took the lead and never relinquished it.
The Pioneers ran out to a 24-5 lead after the first quarter, and they never looked back.
That pleased Nelson because her team had to overcame the long bus ride from Thief River Falls.
“You think about bus legs,” Nelson said. “You want to make sure that you’re ready to go. Getting here early, getting warmed up so we could get rid of those bus legs was important.
“I liked the way we started, especially since we’ve had a few hard games lately. We wanted to come out and have a nice showing and improve on some things.”
The Cardinals had a hard time getting shots off against a tough Northland defense.
Starting slow has been the rule rather than the exception for Hibbing.
“We struggle offensively, and we’re still trying to work that out,” Hibbing coach Kasey Palmer said. “We had another player that hadn’t been to practice at all, so that was another struggle offensively for us.
“We’re hoping next week when everybody is back from break that we’ll have a practice squad that we can scrimmage against and practice some offense and defense against. We haven’t been able to do that in three weeks. It takes a while for us to get going.”
Hibbing did toughen things up in the second quarter defensively, but offensively, points came at a premium as the Pioneers took a 41-11 lead into halftime.
The Cardinals had trouble with the shot clock as numerous times they had the 30-second shot clock violation.
“Offensively, we still struggle to get a good, open look at the basket,” Palmer said. “We get stuck outside holding the ball, then the shot clock goes off. That’s frustrating. It’s unforced errors, the turnovers on our part that can be avoided.
“It’s player awareness of being able to see that as well as the players on the bench being able to count that down for them, so they know. We struggled with that a little bit tonight.”
The Cardinals came out and scored first in the third quarter, then Northland went on a 12-0 run to extend the lead to 40, 53-13.
Hibbing got two baskets from Madi Owens and one from Athena Dunham, but the Pioneers finished out the quarter on 8-0 run to take a 61-19 lead into the fourth quarter.
The fourth quarter was the Cardinals best of the game as they limited Northland to just six points.
“We did a lot of good things today,” Palmer said. “That’s our best defensive total for the year. We had a goal to keep them under 85 because they put up quite a few points, and they had a height advantage on us.
“We held to 67, so we’re happy with that.”
Hibbing needs to get its offense going, however.
“We have a tough game coming up on Friday,” Palmer said. “We do a decent job with transitioning and getting the ball up the floor. When we do that, good things happen, but we’re not doing it consistently enough.
“Going into Friday, we’re going to work on getting the ball and pushing the tempo a little bit., so when we see Mesabi and Itasca, we can work on that.”
Owens led the Cardinals with 12 points.
Keylee Dahl had 14 for the Pioneers. Kasey Stegman and Jackie Lynn Taflin both had 12 and Chloe Kuznia 11.
NCC 24 17 20 6 — 67
HCC 5 6 8 6 — 25
Northland: Felicity Andress 4, Chloe Kuznia 11, Jackie Lynn Taflin 12, Lexie Benke 8, Nicole Swedberg 2, Kasey Stegman 12, Vivian Coan 4, Keylee Dahl 14.
Hibbing: Madi Owens 12, Sofie Anderson 2, Athena Dunham 5, Kimberly Pagel 6.
Total Fouls: Northland 8; Hibbing 6; Fouled Out: None; Free Throws: Northland 5-9; Hibbing 1-3; 3-pointers: Kuznia, Stegman, Owens 2.