The Thunderwolves didn’t let their visitors win at the NCCC Tip-Off Classic.
Both basketball teams improved to 3-1 in non-conference play with back-to-back victories in the weekend invitational at Niagara County Community College.
The NCCC men, ranked No. 13 in NJCAA Division II, rallied Saturday night to beat No. 16 Howard (Md.), 64-60, then followed up with a 98-73 victory against Lackawanna (Pa.) on Sunday.
N-Trip's women, receiving votes in the national poll, won 81-70 on Sunday against No. 18 Lackawanna to avenge a loss in the district championship game that ended the Thunderwolves’ spring season. That followed Friday night’s 72-45 handling of Howard.
Men’s coach Bill Beilein said “it was great for our team to get tested this weekend and it was great to play at home again.” Coming off a loss at Lakeland (Ohio) last Wednesday, “we needed a win against a really good opponent.”
NCCC came back from being down 38-22 at halftime in the win against Howard, forcing 14 turnovers in the second session. Justin Hendrick led the Thunderwolves with 18 points and point guard LaMarqus Merchant Jr. had nine points, 10 rebounds, four assists and three steals.
“Justin Hendrick was phenomenal and he made some clutch free throws,” Beilein said. “LaMarqus is our quarterback out there. Most of our points are coming from him and the decisions he’s making.”
Hendrick had 13 points with eight rebounds against Lackawanna to lead a balanced effort of eight Thunderwolves scoring eight or more. Merchant tallied 11 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
Taylor Sanders (Niagara Falls) totaled 14 points, three rebounds and two steals in the two wins. “He brings us a lot of energy off the bench with his level of compete,” Beilein said. Faybion Prather (Niagara Falls) scored nine points from beyond the arc on Sunday.
Gabby McDuffie led the NCCC women against Lackawanna with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Alaina Forbes had 14 points and six steals. Point guards Kiya Marquez (13 points, eight rebounds, four assists) and Aichata Ballo (12 points, six rebounds) put together productive outings from the floor generals.
The Thunderwolves asserted themselves in the second quarter. Trailing 18-13 after the first, they took a 38-25 lead into halftime. They scored 19 second-chance points from rebounding 42% of their own misses, and controlled 67% on the defensive glass.
Both basketball teams hit the road for the next four games starting Wednesday at Bryant & Stratton in Ohio. The next home doubleheader date at NCCC is Dec. 1 against Genesee.