STC pushes Pointers to the edge
CENTER-POINT — The South Tama County girls’ basketball team that took the court Wednesday night was not the same one Center Point-Urbana saw in their previous two meetings in WaMaC Conference play earlier this year.
The third-ranked Stromin’ Pointers narrowly escaped the upset-minded Trojans at home in a 54-43 final in Class 3A Region 7 action.
Allie Wooldridge, who averaged 12.6 points per game coming into Wednesday night’s contest, posted 20 against South Tama County (13-10) and snagged six more rebounds in the process. STC was led by sophomore Jessica Musgrave, as she tallied 15 points and seven rebounds.
Head coach Sarah Mallen recognized it was the Trojans’ best game of the year. Less than a week removed from her first regional win as the STC head coach, Mallen nearly proved her point that it’s tougher than most aspects in sports to beat a team three times in one season.
“It’s emotional when you go in [to the locker room],” Mallen said. “But it’s either a sad emotional or it’s a joyful emotional. And when I walked in there, it was almost as if there was joy because they knew they gave it their all. There was nothing ‘what if, what it.’ They knew they played to the best of our ability and it still didn’t turn out in our favor. There’s just nothing else we can do.”
The Stormin’ Pointers (20-3) routed the Trojans earlier this year by 30 and 23 points, respectively, in the two meetings. Dismal shooting in the first half by CPU allowed the Trojans to jump out to 15-9 lead as the second quarter opened up.
But CPU proved why it donned the No. 3 ranking in Class 3A, marching back to take their first and final lead since 2-0 at 17-15.
Musgrave acknowledged just how difficult the Stromin’ Pointers were on their press defense. After most out of bounds plays, CPU would jump back into its 1-2-2 full-court press. But after changing it around to man press and back again to 1-2-2, the Trojans struggled to find much consistency off made CPU baskets.
“They switched up their press and brought it more on us,” Musgrave said. “We had to adjust to it and we kind of got through it. But there was some ‘here’s and there’s'”.
After coming off a minorly sprained ankle in practice the night before, Kaitlin Berger and Musgrave worked to nearly shut down Wooldridge in the first half. The CPU stand-out had just seven of her 20 points in the first two periods, with only three made baskets.
Musgrave said the gameplan was to take Wooldridge out of the equation as much as possible, however, Wooldridge proved why she’s been such a threat inside all year.
“We tried to go man so their middle wouldn’t be open so much,” Musgrave said. “And the three, we could cover it. And we really helped with each other’s defense and that’s what kept up and in pace.”
The game was never out of reach for the Trojans, despite the 11-point loss. Without an answer after consecutive fouling to stop the clock late in the fourth quarter, the game was within two possessions most of the second half.
With 5 minutes, 37 seconds to play, Musgrave converted on a breakaway layup that brought a 10-point deficit to just two at 37-35. The Trojans forced a trap and a CPU timeout immediately following, helping them garner some late-game momentum as time ticked away.
But the Stromin’ Pointers went stormin’ on, getting an 8-3 run late and forcing the Trojans to stop the clock at any means necessary.
Looking back on her first season as a head coach, Mallen said this year’s group of players made her job “so easy.” A coachable, attentive group of girls executed a fresh formula, putting it to the test until the final buzzer.
“I threw so many challenges at them throughout the course of the season,” Mallen said. “They probably ran more in their life for me, but they never complained. They were ready to take every day, every challenge, and do it to their best of their ability. This team plays with so much heart that I haven’t even seen, and I’ve played a lot of basketball.”
Mallen helped the Trojans improve to their first plus-.500 season since 2013-14. STC was 12-12 last year after upsetting the West Marshall girls in the first round of regional action.
No. 3 Center Point-Urbana moves on to play No. 13 Mid-Prairie on Saturday night in Williamsburg for a chance to go to the state tournament.
Center Point-Urbana 54, South Tama County 43
At Center Point
SOUTH TAMA COUNTY (13-10) — Sadie Smith 2 0-0 6, Kaitlin Berger 1 4-4 6, Jessica Musgrave 7 1-2 15, Abby Llewellyn 1 0-0 2, Shae Slaven 3 0-0 7, Allison Yuska 1 0-0 2, Madison Rohach 2 0-0 5. TOTALS 17 5-6 43.
CENTER POINT-URBANA (20-3) — Adrianna Katcher 4 3-5 11, Lamia Sisk 2 0-0 5, Olivia Brecht 1 2-2 4, Allie Wooldridge 8 4-5 20, Callyn Fox 2 0-0 4, Karly Millkin 1 2-2 4, Raegan Dufoe 0 0-0 0, Madie Willson 2 0-0 5, Sydney Boevers 0 0-0 0. TOTALS 19 15-19 54.
STC 11 6 12 14 — 43
CPU 9 13 13 19 — 54
3-Point Goals–STC 4 (Smith 2, Rohach, Slaven), CPU (Willson). Total Fouls STC 17, CPU 11. Fouled Out–None.