PELLA — A persistent effort on the glass and 23 points from sophomore transfer Abby Johnson (Ankeny) let the Central College women’s basketball team deliver first-year coach Moran Lonning her first collegiate victory Thursday, a 78-64 triumph over North Central University (Minn.).
The Dutch (1-1) outrebounded North Central 54-45, getting 20 offensive boards to allow them to post a 25-8 advantage in second-chance points.
After dropping a 76-74 decision in the closing seconds at Waldorf College Tuesday, the Dutch were up almost the entire way although they saw a 40-28 halftime lead sliced to 57-54 after the third quarter. But Central opened the fourth period with a 7-0 burst and was in command the rest of the way.
Johnson had a double-double, grabbing 11 rebounds, including seven offensive boards, and that’s what caught Lonning’s eye more than her scoring.
“I’m more impressed by her rebounding,” she said. “She kind of saved us in that third quarter-fourth quarter time where we weren’t scoring well. Things weren’t falling but she was always there rising up above everyone to get that board and a nice little putback. She has that high motor to just outwork everyone.”
Central also held a commanding edge at the free throw line, hitting 17 of 22 while North Central (0-1) made just 2 of 4. The Dutch were hurt at the stripe at Waldorf, hitting only 16 of 29.
“That’s a really big improvement from our last game,” Lonning said.
Guard Kelsea Hurley (senior, Scottsdale, Ariz., Desert Mountain HS) had nine points, eight rebounds and seven assists while not committing a turnover in 23 minutes of action. The Dutch also got four assists from freshman point guard Jasmyn Williams (Denver, Colo., Arvada West HS).
“I liked our bench scoring,” Lonning said. “We outscored their bench, 27-10. That’s awesome. I want everyone on the team to be thinking score, being aggressive and doing what the team is needing them to do.”
While uncomfortable with Central’s 24 turnovers, Lonning liked the 12 steals the team’s game-long full-court pressure produced.
“We stayed with it,” she said. “We were relentless. We didn’t let up. We switched up a couple things throughout the game and they responded well. I think we’re finally learning that our press and our defense fuel our offense. So when we can get stops, usually that equals points.”
Central outshot North Central from the field 38.2% to 35.0% and knocked down nine 3-point shots.
Lonning wasn’t allowing herself much time to savor the first victory in her head coaching career, but didn’t hide her smile.
“Yeah, it feels good,” Lonning said, hair still dripping from the postgame water bottle shower she was greeted with when she entered the locker room. “But we’ve got a game Saturday so we can’t celebrate too much. We’ve got to get ready for the next one.”
Central is home again Saturday, taking on Cornell College in a 2 p.m. game at P.H. Kuyper Gymnasium. The teams last met in 2012. The Rams dropped their season opener at Coe College Wednesday, 57-52.