With three weeks between games there was no shortage of concerns for Mid-Prairie coach Daren Lambert when the Golden Hawks returned to game action Monday for the first time since December 11.
“You worry about things not being as crisp, you worry about shots not falling, being a little flat and conditioning,” Lambert said. “Those are just some of things I was worried about.”
Most, if not all, of Lambert’s main concerns came true in the opening three quarters against Northeast on Monday.
In the final quarter, the Golden Hawks put their coaches concerns to rest.
Mid-Prairie outscored Northeast (2-2) 21-7 over the final seven minutes to erase a seven-point fourth quarter deficit and stretched its winning streak to four with a 53-46 win over the Rebels in a River Valley Conference cross-divisional make-up game in Wellman.
“We preached that it would be the little things, closing out, being there for defensive help, boxing out, moving the ball those were the things that were going to win the game tonight,” Lambert said. “That was the focus in the pregame and ultimately those were in the things in the second half that we did that kind of closed it out for us.”
Mid-Prairie improved to 4-1 with the win and remained unbeaten in RVC play while securing its first ever win over Northeast.
The Rebels had won the first seven meetings between the two teams after joining the RVC including a 51-38 win last season in Goose Lake.
Monday’s game was rescheduled from December 22 and starts a four-game week for the Golden Hawks that continues with a home game against Wilton on Tuesday and a Friday trip to RVC South Division leader West Branch and a Saturday game at Anamosa.
“We’ve never beat them so to do something like that for the program against a team that is always at the top of the conference kinds of sets the tone of the week with how the rest of the week can go,” Lambert said. “We got one and now the focus is going 1-0 tomorrow and that’s what we are going to do all week.”
Alex Bean scored eight of his game-high 18 points in the fourth quarter, including a pair of big 3-pointers to key the late Golden Hawk rally.
Carter Harmsen added 12 points and Jack Pennington and Aidan Rath each had eight for Mid-Prairie.
“We just needed to do the little things like boxing out and hustling because our shots were falling but we knew they were going to fall,” Bean said. “We just had to keep shooting because we have a lot of guys that can shoot.”
Mid-Prairie led 11-9 after the opening quarter but missed its first eight field goal attempts while going scoreless for more than five minutes to open the second quarter.
Northeast rattled off a 12-0 run during that stretch and led 23-19 at the half.
“We were a little rusty shooting in the first half,” Bean said. “We didn’t really play for almost a month so it was basically like starting the season again.”
Mid-Prairie trailed 39-32 after Carter Pataska hit a jumper in the lane with 7:32 left.
Bean came up with what turned into the game’s biggest play when his 3-pointer on the ensuing Mid-Prairie possession ignited a 12-0 Golden Hawk run.
“I just started feeling it and had to let it fly,” Bean said. “We turned up the intensity all around.”
Harmsen got a steal and layup to cut the lead to 39-37 and Bean gave Mid-Prairie its first lead since the first quarter with a 3-pointer with 4:58 left.
After hitting one of five field goal attempts in the first half Bean was 4-of-5 from beyond the arc in the second half.
“He’s a shooter and he has the green light all the time,” Lambert said of Bean. “He is kind of fearless, he’s young so this is his fifth varsity game but you wouldn’t guess that. I trust him and he trusts himself because he’s put the work in. All those shots, you expect them to go in.”
Rath hit a pair of free throws and Harmsen converted a driving layup to cap the 12-0 burst that gave Mid-Prairie a 44-39 lead it would never give up.
Mid-Prairie converted 9-of-12 free throws over the final 2:09 to secure the win.
“In the first half our shots were falling and I think that kind of dictated how the rest of our game was going,” Lambert said.
“We started getting easier shots and easier transition looks so overall I was pleased with how we turned the page the second half and finished it off.”