Small helps NWC overcome loss of key player

Posted March 12, 2013 at 5:00 am

Five Northwestern College players scored in double figures in leading the seventh-ranked Red Raiders to a 92-66 win over Mayville State (N.D.) in the first round of the NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball National Championship at Tyson Events Center/Gateway Arena in Sioux City.

One of the five was Mackenzie Small, a junior who scored 14 points to help offset the first half loss of leading scorer Kendra De Jong, who went down hard and injured an ankle in the March 6 game.

“Mackenzie did a very good job in her role. If you look at her statistics line, she contributes in every category,” said Northwestern Coach Chris Yaw.

Northwestern made the NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball National Tournament semifinals but fell to Davenport, 74-68, for a 26-8 final record. The Red Raiders had their hopes of a fourth straight national title end.

But for three games the Red Raiders found a way, starting as Small made four of six all field goal attempts, twos and threes, made two of three from three-point range, four of four from the free-throw line, had five rebounds, one assist and two steals in the first round win.

Small is a Hinton alum who has family in Akron, including grandparents Jim and Eddie. She is the daughter of Joel and Sandy Small.

“If there are two things we can control in a game, it is defense and rebounding,” said Yaw, adding his team did very well in those areas.

Just how much is De Jong’s hoops talents loved by the Red Raiders faithful. “We love Kendra De Jong” was a sign on the message board as one enters the arena. De Jong had 547 points for a 17.6 points per game average and was the team’s leading rebounder with 333, 10.7 per game, before the national tournament started.

Small hit a three-pointer as part of Northwestern run of 11-0 in the first half as the Red Raiders pulled ahead, 32-20. It was a 45-28 lead at halftime for Northwestern.

Alli Dunkelberger assumed the role of team leader and scored a game-high 18 pints, making four of 11 three-pointers and also had five rebounds. De Jong had her 14th double double statistically of the season with 16 points and 10 rebounds.

Northwestern scored the first six points of the game but Mayville State, making its first appearance at the national tournament, cut the lead down to one, 16-15, with 13 minutes to go in the first half. Northwestern ran off 14 straight points to open a 36-20 advantage late in the first half. Mallory Cunnard also scored from three-point range in addition to Small.

Northwestern maintained its double digit lead throughout the second half and put the game away with a 6-0 run to put the Red Raiders up by 20 points for most of the half.

The Red Raiders shot 43 percent for the game, 40 percent from the three-point arc. Karen Hutson scored 14 points and Samantha Kleinsasser also reached double digits for NWC with 11. Northwestern had a huge 61-38 advantage on the boards, led by De Jong with 10 and Cassidy Breon had 10, a new career high.

Northwestern pushed its win streak at the national tournament to 16 games.

“We were able to stay with them for a while but then our legs got tired,” said Mayville State seventh-year coach Dennis Hutter. Hailey Longtin led the Comets with 17 points and Samantha Heier added 14. Marcsia McMillen, the Comets’ leading scorer at 15.7 points per game average and leading rebounder, was held to two points.

Mayville State was one of the last of the 32 teams to gain a spot in the NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball National Championship but had a good fan showing despite the afternoon game. The Comets led their league, the Association of Independent Institutions, in scoring, averaging 83 points a game. That was before they ran into the Northwestern defense. They shot 29 percent in the first round game from the field. Their final record was 20-6.

Dana Weerheim, a freshman from Hawarden, got into the game’s final minute for the Red Raiders. She is an alum of West Sioux.

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