Marshalltown girls’ basketball team wins season opener, 39-32
In just one game, the Marshalltown girls basketball team did what it was unable to do all of last season.
After going 0-22 in the 2016-17 campaign, the Bobcats were thirsty for a victory and they quenched that thirst on Tuesday night, taking down Des Moines North 39-32 to start the year off with a win.
This was only the second win for the Bobcats in two years, as their last triumph came against the Polar Bears in January of 2016, and it was the first time Marshalltown has won its opening game since the 2014-15 season.
Bobcats sophomore Erica Johnson, who had yet to experience a win in a Marshalltown jersey, said the defeats of last year definitely had an impact on the way the girls came out to play on Tuesday night.
“I think we all just really wanted it really bad after last year. We all stepped it up and we’ve been working hard in practice and it paid off a lot.
It was all MHS from the tip-off, as the Bobcats blasted Des Moines North 13-0 in the first quarter. Kassy Vest hit four shots in the opening frame on her way to scoring 14 points in the fourth quarter, and she said at first it felt like she couldn’t miss.
“When I had the ball, every time I went up it just went in every time. That’s what it seemed like at least,” Vest said with a chuckle after the game. “Being spaced out with Erica up top, she opens the space up and gives it right to me, which helps a lot.”
Johnson also had a great game for the Bobcats, throwing in 14 points while recording six rebounds, three assists and three steals. Vest led the team in rebounding as well as points with 10 boards to start the year with a double-double.
Head coach Stacy O’Hare said both girls gave an incredible effort to start the year.
“Erica had an outstanding game. Again, she’s still a sophomore and she’s still young and has a lot to learn,” O’Hare said. “We haven’t been in this situation in a very long time, so even at the end of the game trying to talk her through everything, it’s just something she hasn’t done for a while but I thought she did a really great job running the point for us.
“Kassy came out and carried us in the first quarter and the first half really,” O’Hare continued. “I am really proud of her because on Saturday after the scrimmage I was worried about how much she could play because she gets pretty winded, but she gutted it out and she played tough tonight so that was good.”
Before the game even started, Marshalltown was having to battle through adversity, as the Bobcats were down their best player in sophomore Madi Finch, who suffered a leg injury in a scrimmage on Saturday.
Being down the leading scorer from last season wasn’t an ideal situation for the team, but Johnson said they still found a way to come out and earn a victory.
“We were kind of worried with Madi being out at first, but we all knew that we had to step it up to cover her,” she said. “We all kind of worked together and made it work.”
Though Finch is currently in a walking boot, O’Hare said her injury isn’t too serious and she should be out “only a few weeks.” In the meantime, O’Hare said her Bobcats still have to find a way to replace what Finch gives them on the court.
“It’s not terrible but I think this is a week where we have three weeks who I think we can compete with, so with one of our best players down the other kids will have to pick up the slack,” O’Hare said.
After taking a 23-9 lead into halftime, the Bobcats let Des Moines North gain some momentum, cutting the lead to only six heading to the fourth quarter and down to as much as two in the final frame. O’Hare said that had a lot to do with a lack of depth for MHS, something they will still have to make up for moving forward.
“There were times in the game where you could definitely tell we were tired and winded, when that happens we don’t always think very well but these kids aren’t used to playing every minute of every game,” she said.
When the Bobcats needed points to secure the victory, however, Johnson and Alyvia Chadderdon both stepped up to the line and hit some huge shots from the charity stripe.
Given all of the adversity heading into the game and the general feeling surrounding Bobcat girls basketball, a program that had won one game in its previous 44 attempts, O’Hare said she will cherish the fact that they pulled out a win to kick off the year.
“This is the way you want to start your season off, with a win, and a lot of good things happened tonight,” O’Hare said. “We stuck Kyra Feldman, who’s a freshman, right out there in the mix and she did just fine. This was definitely the way you want to start a season off.”
The MHS girls will try to make it two-straight on Thursday when they travel to Waterloo to face Waterloo East. O’Hare said there are definitely areas they need to improve, but her girls have a good shot at pulling out yet another win against the Trojans.
“Within our offense, we talked a lot about this during our timeouts and even at half, moving along the perimeter and not just standing. Our girls tend to just go to one spot and don’t utilize the entire floor, so movement without the ball is something we have to work on,” O’Hare said. “We saw a zone tonight, chances are we won’t see a zone again, so this was our focus. Now we have to change gears and go back into a man, also I’m going to guess that form here on out we will see a press.”
That game between the Bobcats and Trojans is set for a 7:30 p.m. tip on Thursday in Waterloo.
Marshalltown 39, Des Moines North 32
DM NORTH (0-3) — Safi Nitanga 1 0-0 2, Alina Dong 0 0-0 0, Cecille Nahimana 0 0-0 0, Florence Tuyishime 1 0-1 2, Junice Sibley 4 0-0 12, Delephine Niyigena 3 0-0 6, Nyadholi Deng 3 3-4 10, Reem Maki 0 0-0 0, Katie McCarl 0 0-0 0.
MARSHALLTOWN (1-0) — Alyvia Chadderdon 1 4-10 6, Erica Johnson 4 5-7 14, Kyra Feldman 0 0-1 0, Aida Almanza 0 0-0 0, Gabby Himes 1 0-0 2, Kassy Vest 6 4-4 17, Grace Metzger 0 0-0 0.
DM North 0 9 13 9 — 32
MHS 13 10 5 11 — 39
3-Point Goals–DMN 5 (Sibley 4, Deng), MHS 2 (Johnson, Vest). Team Fouls–DMN 22, MHS 14. Fouled Out–Nitanga, Tuyishime, Niyigena.