The Lady Indians finally caught stride in the second half and beat the Grace University junior varsity, 79-68, in action at the MCC Events Center.
The victory improved McCook's season record to 13-2, one of the best starts for the Lady Indians in recent history.
THE MCC WOMEN take several weeks off each season through the Christmas holiday. The team returned to school right after New Year's and began workouts in preparation for the second half of the season.
With a three-week break from competition, Tuesday's game was much like starting the season over.
"We don't really have time to sit and think about things we didn't do right. We've just got to move on."
McCook used a 11-0 run to take a 26-17 lead late in the first half. Guard Akia Davis fueled the MCC spree with six points, and Omaha guard Sidney Young also knocked down a 3-pointer from the right corner.
Grace came right back, cutting the deficit to 35-30. Amherst freshman Shelby Hemmann scored consecutive buckets, and Young ended the first half with another long-range bomb to boost the Lady Indians to a 42-30 lead going into the locker room.
Grace hung around early in the second half. McCook switched an eight-point lead to 70-49 over a four-minute stretch to take control. Amir Davis, Young, Akia Davis and Julie Gallegos each hit 3-pointers in the 18-5 MCC run.
McCook got consecutive baskets from 6-foot-3 freshman Mary-Ann Frederick to take a 79-58 lead with five minutes remaining. Grace then scored 10 unanswered points in a four-minute span to cut the lead to 79-68. Neither team scored in the closing minute.
COACH RINEHART said her team played much better in the second half.
"We started moving the ball a little better, starting moving around in the second half," Rinehart said. "I think we finally got it through our heads that we did not want them entering the lane in the second half, and to stop the ball at half-court. Just the little tiny details is what turned a little bit of momentum."
Rinehart said her team was playing very well when they claimed the mid-December win at Grace.
"We're probably at 20 percent of where we were on Dec. 15," she said. "When we played Grace the first time we had a lot of errors, and a lot of little mistakes, where we wanted to correct those (in Tuesday's rematch). But you've got that three-week break -- it's hard to jump right back on that same wagon. We've got a little driving to do to get the bugs out."
Don't be surprised if the MCC women find a holiday tournament to compete in over next year's holiday break -- perhaps even a home Christmas tournament.
Akia Davis paced MCC with 25 points. Hemmann added 16 points and Young chipped in 14.
TUESDAY'S CONTEST served as a tune-up for the biggest game of the young season so far for the Lady Indians. McCook heads to Scottsbluff Friday, Jan. 11, to tangle with perennial Region IX power Western Nebraska Community College. Tip-off is set for 6:30 p.m. CST Friday from the Cougar Palace in Scottsbluff.
WNCC's women have not lost a game on the court this season. But the Cougars were forced to forfeit 13 games when the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) determined that a foreign player on the roster had played professionally overseas before she came to Nebraska.
Western Nebraska is 1-0 in Region IX South Division play, while McCook is 2-1.
Coach Rinehart labeled WNCC as one of the elite women's basketball programs, both in Region IX and in the nation's two-year college ranks.
"That's going to be a big battle. Hopefully we get a little turnaround in the next two practices," Rinehart said.