Gradwell’s back on the attack
West Marshall turns back Chargers in 3A regional semis
The unpredictable return of junior guard Isabelle Gradwell and the spark from senior forward Madde Green off the bench gave the No. 14 Trojan girls’ basketball team the boost it needed to beat Chariton 47-42 in Wednesday’s Class 3A Region 8 semifinal.
The Chargers (15-7) saw enough evidence on film that attempting to take junior guard Brooke Snider out of the equation was the way to get to West Marshall. The Trojans, however, had the solution.
Gradwell played for the first time since Jan. 10, returning from an 11-game hiatus because of a broken right fibula, and scored a team-leading 14 points. Green matched her career-high with 11 points off the bench, helping the Trojans (20-3) overcome persistent foul trouble and providing a much-needed scoring spark.
The combination helped West Marshall’s three seniors close their careers with a home-court win while advancing the team to Saturday’s 7 p.m. regional final against No. 11 PCM (19-4) in Bondurant. The winner advances to the state tournament.
“This was the last home game for our three seniors and we wanted it to be memorable in the right way, and it was,” said West Marshall head coach Fred Zeller. “I thought Madde Green came in and did a darn good job of giving us a little punch off the bench when we were in foul trouble. She shot the ball with confidence and we hit her a few times and she converted. That’s always good to see a kid that comes off the bench who has had kind of a tough year, but she’s hung in there and contributed well. Her best game, for sure.”
Gradwell made a scoop-shot layup for her first points since getting injured in a win at Meskwaki Settlement on Jan. 10, and she quickly followed that up with a 3-pointer. Another Gradwell triple beat the buzzer and brought the Trojans back into an 11-all tie at the end of the opening quarter.
“It felt like forever,” said Gradwell of her absence. “I felt like I was never coming back. This means a lot because I know my team won for me our first game [after I got hurt] and they really wanted me to be back and I really wanted to be back with them. I had so much adrenaline, I wasn’t even tired.”
Gradwell received medical clearance on Tuesday and practiced that night for the first time since sustaining her injury. She said she tightened up toward the end of the game, but her impact was necessary for West Marshall’s chances of advancing.
“I don’t think we would have fared quite as well without Izzy,” said Zeller. “She’s not like she was before but she’s still pretty effective and we needed a leader and she got it.”
Green added seven rebounds and three blocked shots, stepping into the lineup early in the second quarter with the score tied at 13-all. Chariton’s box-and-one slipped up long enough to allow Snider a 3-pointer in the first quarter, but the Trojans stymied themselves offensively thanks to 13 turnovers in the first half and 29 total for the game.
The Trojans closed the second quarter on an 8-0 run thanks to a 3-pointer by Green, three free throws by Teresa Disney and two more by Gradwell. West Marshall’s nine-point lead, 26-17, got cut down to three during the third period, but that was as close as the contest got despite the tension down the stretch.
Chariton point guard Carlie Schaeffer finished with a game-high 18 points, including 14 in the second half alone. A 3-pointer by Luci Swarthout with 1:20 left brought the Chargers within 44-40, but Snider made a pair of free throws for the Trojans moments later.
West Marshall shot 8-for-11 at the free-throw line in the fourth quarter to quell Chariton’s comeback attempt.
“I’m just so happy we won,” Gradwell said. “It was a tough fight. I’m just so glad we got it.”
The Trojans went 8-3 without Gradwell but were forced to share the NICL West Division title they seemed destined for after a 16-0 start to the season. West Marshall won five games in a row without Gradwell before Grundy Center, AGWSR and Dike-New Hartford handed the Trojans three defeats in a five-game span.
Ivy Swarthout finished with 16 points for the Chargers, combining with Schaeffer to account for 34 of the team’s 42 points.
In addition to Gradwell’s 14 points and Green’s 11, West Marshall got an additional 11 points and four steals from Snider. Disney finished with five points and a team-leading 16 rebounds, and Green led the defense with three blocked shots.
West Marshall 47, Chariton 42
At State Center
CHARITON (15-7) — Carlie Schaeffer 9 0-1 18, Aubrie Richards 1 1-3 3, Ivy Swarthout 5 5-6 16, Kendall Hardie 1 0-0 2, Sadee Terrell 0 0-0 0, Luci Swarthout 1 0-0 3, Taytum Bacus 0 0-0 0, Grace Bengston 0 0-0 0, Tressa Shore 0 0-0 0. TOTALS 17 6-10 42.
WEST MARSHALL (20-3) — Brooke Snider 4 2-4 11, Shannon Breja 0 0-0 0, Kayla Cripps 1 3-4 5, Isabelle Gradwell 4 4-5 14, Emma Meyer 0 1-2 1, Georgia Porter 0 0-0 0, Madde Green 4 1-2 11, Teresa Disney 1 3-4 5. TOTALS 14 14-21 47.
CHARITON 11 6 12 13 — 42
W. MARSHALL 11 15 9 12 — 47
3-Point Goals–Chariton 2 (L.Swarthout, I.Swarthout), WM 5 (Gradwell 2, Greene 2, Snider). Total Fouls–Chariton 20, WM 18. Fouled Out–I.Swarthout.