By Adrian O'Hanlon III, McAlester News-Capital
A competitive first quarter turned into a lopsided loss for the Lady Mountaineers in the conference opener.
After a tightly-contested opening quarter, Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College pulled further ahead in each of the next two quarters on the way to handing Eastern Oklahoma State College an 80-62 home loss Tuesday at C.C. Dunlap Field House in the NJCAA Division 1 Region 2 opener.
Eastern Oklahoma State College women's head basketball coach Brandon Taylor said he was proud of his team for the competitive start, but the Lady Mountaineers have some work to do in conference play.
Eastern (5-5, 0-1) faced just a three-point deficit after the opening quarter, but NEO (6-4, 1-0) steadily pulled away with Bethy Mununga leading the way.
Mununga finished with 26 points and 10 boards as NEO extended the lead to 20 points midway through the fourth on the way to the win.
But the beginning of the game looked promising.
Mununga answered for NEO with two straight buckets before Bush got another 3-pointer to fall and both teams traded buckets to a 12-10 NEO lead about midway through the first.
Eastern started to fall behind before Alonna McGahee hit a mid-range jumper and Guzman made a tough layup near the ned of the period to pull the Lady Mountaineers within 21-16.
NEO opened the second quarter with a layup before Mununga hit two straight buckets and Jonah Johnson connected with Kiarra Brooks for a layup and an eight-point run.
Eastern's McKenzie Patton hit two free throws before NEO added a mid-range jumper and a no-look assist from Johnson to Mununga to expend the lead.
But Eastern answered with Bush getting a bucket in the paint and a left-wing deep ball before Johnson responded for NEO with a right-wing 3-pointer.
NEO rode Mununga's 16 first-half points to a 35-32 halftime advantage, while Bush ended the half with 13 points for Eastern.
NEO also held a slight advantage on the boards in the first half with 16 to Eastern's 15, but the Lady Mountaineers turned the ball over 12 times to NEO's five turnovers before the break.
The Norsemen opened the second half on an eight-point run before Eastern stopped the streak with Stephens scoring in the paint.
Both teams traded buckets before NEO ended the third quarter on another eight-point run field by 3-pointers by Kiarra Brooks and Johnson for a 59-42 lead.
NEO finished 37-of-70 shooting from the field and 3-of-15 from deep, while Eastern went 24-of-56 from the field and 5-of-11 on 3-pointers.
The Norsemen finished with a 20-12 advantage on turnovers and a 30-25 advantage on the boards.