CEDAR RAPIDS — When the Kirkwood women’s basketball team lost one of its best players to injury, it left a void.
Sophomore guard Haley Mullinnix has responded with the best games of her young career.
“It was important for all of us to step up,” Mullinnix said after the fourth-ranked Eagles blasted Ellsworth, 103-48, in an Iowa Community College Athletic Conference game Thursday night at Johnson Hall. “It’s not just one person that needs to step up. It’s the whole team.”
Out of eight career double-figure scoring efforts for Mullinnix, four have come in the last five games. After Kirkwood freshman Ashley Tull — a North Linn graduate who averaged a team-high 10.4 points through the first 20 games — ended her season with an ACL tear in her knee on Jan. 16, Mullinnix led the team in scoring in each of the next two games. She scored a career-high 25 points in a narrow home win against NIACC on Jan. 19, then added 15 four days later in a victory at Iowa Lakes.
“It’s really been flowing,” Mullinnix said. “I’ve just been able to knock down shots. … It feels good going into a game knowing that I am able to score.”
Against Ellsworth, Mullinnix scored 11 of her 13 points in a first quarter that Kirkwood led 30-6. She converted five of her six field goal attempts, including three of four 3-point baskets. In the last five contests, she is shooting a blistering 77 percent from beyond the 3-point line (17 of 22) and 71 percent overall (22 of 31).
“She is just getting confident,” Kirkwood Coach Kim Muhl said. “She is just kind of coming into her own. … The biggest problem we had with her is she wanted to put it on the floor. We got so she could just shoot it. Just catch it and shoot it. She has obviously figured that out. She is getting good looks and I expected her to make them.”
Long-distance shooting has always been a strength of Mullinnix. In high school, she started all four years at West Branch and led the Bears in 3-point baskets in all but one season. She finished her prep career with 138 3-pointers, helped West Branch win 66 games overall and reached the 2016 Class 1A state tournament, the Bears’ first appearance in 44 years.
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“Being able to be a leader on the court, step up when I need to,” Mullinnix said of how high school basketball prepared her for Kirkwood. “Give the ball to my teammates. Know when I need to give the ball up.”
Kirkwood (18-5, 8-0 ICCAC) has won seven games in a row and 13 of 14. The Eagles visit Little Priest on Saturday.
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