Photo by Jeff Yoder
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – As the final seconds ticked away a portion of the home fans at the City High gymnasium rose to their feet for a subdued ovation.
The light applause was just enough to cover the sound of more than a few sighs of relief from the Little Hawks.
Class 5A third-ranked City High (2-0) rallied from a six-point fourth-quarter deficit to escape with a 66-57 win over Dubuque Hempstead (0-4) in a Mississippi Valley Conference cross-divisional matchup in Iowa City.
“There was definitely a sigh of relief,” City High junior Rose Nkumu said. “I think it was definitely a wake up call, we aren’t used to being down and I give them a lot of credit but we were able to pick it up when we needed to.”
Aubrey Joens had a game-high 25 points and Nkumu had 23 for City High which trailed by six at the half and three entering the fourth quarter.
Joens and Nkumu came up big in the fourth quarter, combing for 15 of City High’s 21 points.
Nkumu had all seven of her fourth-quarter points in the final four minutes after Joens gave the Little Hawks the lead for good with a driving layup with 4:11 left.
City High closed the game on a 12-2 run holding the Mustangs to just two points over the final four and a half minutes.
“We came through when we needed to,” City High coach Bill McTaggart said. “If you have a bad game you’d like to still win and learn from it. I hope we got their attention.”
City High needed everything it could muster to shake an inspired Hempstead squad seeking its first win.
The Little Hawks led 8-4 three minutes into the game but Hempstead roared back to even the game at 15 after one quarter.
City High took a 25-23 lead on a pair of free throws by Nkumu but Hempstead closed the first half on a 10-2 run to take a 33-27 lead into the half.
“They came out and played really hard and were ready to go and our defense really lacked in the first half,” Joens said. “They are a good team and we have to come ready to play.”
Hempstead had half of its 24 turnovers in the opening two quarters against the pressure defense of City High but shot 58 percent from the field.
“I give them credit they took advantage of our defense,” Nkumu said. “At times we were pretty slopping overplaying everything and they were getting wide open layups. They deserve everything they got.”
City High appeared to be well on its way to pulling away early in the second half.
The Little Hawks needed less than two minutes to erase its halftime deficit, opening the third quarter on a 9-0 run that featured a Joens 3-pointer and a steal and layup by Nkumu.
“When we got into halftime we all realized we had to kick it up a notch,” Nkumy said. “We had a couple of little spurts at the beginning of the second half and then at the end we really started clicking.”
Hempstead wouldn’t go away.
The Mustangs responded with a 7-0 run of their and closed the quarter on an 8-2 run to take a 48-45 lead.
Hempstead led 53-48 with under 5:30 to play before City High got rolling.
Joens sparked the rally with back-to-back 3-pointers in a span of 22 seconds and gave City High the lead for good with a driving layup with 4:11 left.
“I think we picked up our intensity and our defense was better,” Joens said. “We started getting better shots.”
A Nkumu bucked put City High up 58-55 with 3:44 left and a Paige Rocca 3-pointer made it 61-55.
Hempstead got as close as 61-57 on a Madison Fleckenstein hoop but Nkumu hit 5-of-6 free throws over the final 61 seconds to secure the win.
“We picked up our defense and our shot selection was better the second half,” McTaggart said. “Dubuque Hempstead, man they played hard and once you start to think you can play with somebody you get confidence and some of those shots start to go in.”
Rocca finished with nine points and Ella Cook had eight, all in the second half.
Kaylie Springer led Hempstead with 15 points while Corinne Meier had 13 and Fleckenstein 12.
“We know we are going to be facing better teams than this team, they played a heck of a game the first three quarters and I think we can definitely learn from this,” Nkumu said. “We can build and kind of prepare for some of the better teams we are going to play later on in the season.”
City High (66) – Rose Nkumu 6-13 11-15 23, Eviyon Richardson 0-1 0-0 0, Ella Cook 3-10 0-0 8, Andie Westlake 0-2 0-0 0, Paige Rocca 3-8 2-2 9, Aubrey Joens 10-15 0-1 25, Kacie Earl 0-2 1-2 1, Team 22-51 14-20 66.
Dubuque Hempstead (57) – Sydney Paulsen 2-6 0-0 5, Kaylie Springer 6-8 0-0 15, Madison Fleckenstein 5-13 2-5 12, Morgan Hawkins 2-3 0-0 4, Riley Bleymeyer 3-7 0-0 6, Corinne Meier 5-9 0-1 13, Riley Kay 1-1 0-2 2, Team 24-47 2-8 57
3-point field goals – ICH 8-20 (Nkumu 0-1, Richardson 0-1, Westlake 0-1, Cook 2-5, Rocca 1-4, Joens 5-8), DH 7-16 (Paulsen 1-4, Springer 3-4, Fleckenstein 0-2, Hawkins 0-1, Meier 3-5). Rebounds – ICH 24 (Joens 6), DH 33 (Meier 11). Turnovers – ICH 13, DH 24. Total fouls – ICH 12, DH 17. Fouled out – None. Technical fouls – None.
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