CEDAR RAPIDS — A 115-111 overtime loss Dec. 14 at NIACC dropped Kirkwood from its brief perch atop the NJCAA D-2 women’s basketball rankings. Wednesday night at Johnson Hall, the Eagles welcomed newly crowned No. 1 NIACC with hopes of turning the tables.
No. 7 Kirkwood twice rallied from double-digit deficits, but 31 turnovers were too much to overcome as the Eagles dropped a second straight game, 90-87.
“The kids played their hearts out,” Kirkwood Coach Kim Muhl said. “They did a great job. We’re depleted, but we still fought extremely hard. We had a chance to win, and turnovers hurt us.”
Kirkwood (18-5, 7-3 ICCAC) turned the ball over on five straight first-half possessions, resulting in an early 11-5 deficit. Kirkwood’s 17 first-half miscues allowed NIACC to push its lead to as large as 13 at 40-27 with four minutes remaining until halftime.
“Everybody was just so anxious,” said point guard Danielle Woolfolk, who had 16 points and nine rebounds. “We all wanted to win. You’re just so focused on getting a basket. It happens in basketball games.”
Kirkwood scored the next dozen points to pull within a point at 40-39 on two 3-pointers from Woolfolk and another from Taylor Silva.
However, another flurry of turnovers to start the second half propelled NIACC to its largest lead at 65-48 before Kirkwood mounted a final charge. A 3-pointer from Tyra Polite capped a 26-8 Eagles’ surge for a 74-73 lead with 3:10 remaining, its first lead since the opening moments. Another Silva three tied the game at 81-81 with 1:18 to go, but seven free throws down the stretch clinched the game for NIACC.
Chelsey Jacox, the conference’s second-leading scorer, had a game-high 32 points and 11 rebounds for NIACC (21-2, 10-0 ICCAC).
“We knew it was going to be a battle coming into this game,” Kirkwood freshman Cassidy Clark said. “Way too many turnovers. We couldn’t take care of the ball.”
With three post players (Hanna Haynes, Zoe Kelso and Peyton Bockholt) out due to injury, more of the load down low fell on the shoulders of Clark, who responded with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
“I thought we played pretty good as a team,” Clark said. “We have some injuries, but that’s when we need to step up and become better as a team.”
Muhl expects Haynes, the team’s leading rebounder, to miss the remainder of the season after a PCL injury sustained during a fall on the ice.
After another narrow defeat to NIACC, Kirkwood knows a third meeting could potentially be do-or-die for a berth in the national tournament.
“Our mindset is keep grinding,” Woolfolk said. “We’ll see them again. We have to see them again.”
In the men’s nightcap, Jon-Christopher Fuller led the way with 14 points as Kirkwood (15-7, 6-4 ICCAC) raced past NIACC, 73-58. Former Linn-Mar prep Matt Lassen added 12.