Cougars topple No. 8 Trojans
AGWSR downs West Marshall in NICL West Division opener
STATE CENTER — On the first night of NICL West division play, the AGWSR girls basketball team sent message to the rest of the division, taking down Class 3A No. 8 West Marshall on the Trojans home court on Friday, 52-43.
After a slow start in the first quarter that gave West Marshall a slight lead, Cougars senior Mandy Willems uncorked two beautiful shots from behind the 3-point line to give AGWSR a 14-13 advantage to end the first quarter, a lead they never relinquished again.
Cougars head coach Laurie Gann said Willems — who scored 18 of her game-leading 20 points in the first quarter — was a huge key to her girls taking a win from the highly-touted Trojans.
“That was the whole goal, I told her she had the green light to let if fly and if she was hot it will make a difference in the game, and I think it really did,” Gann said. “It got us confidence and it kind of got a little edge there of putting them on the ropes and having to fight back instead of us.”
Willems started the second quarter hot too, knocking down two more threes to extend the AGWSR (2-0, 1-0) lead in the early going. It wasn’t just Willems in the second though, as three other girls found the bottom of the net in the period, including two fast-break buckets by freshman McKenna Kuper after West Marshall (3-1, 0-1) turnovers.
Gann said the ability to cause turnovers and play tough against a fairly physical team like the Trojans was a welcome sight in the win.
“West Marshall is always a tough opponent for us and they’ve got great athletes that play hard,” she said. “Sometimes we struggle with their physicality but I thought our girls for the most part did a pretty good job of being able to do what they needed to do at particular points of the game to be able to come out with a win.”
That physicality almost brought the Trojans back into the game in the third quarter, as West Marshall outscored AGWSR coming out of halftime 10-5 to cut the Cougar lead down to just two points.
Gann said she didn’t expect the Trojans to lay down and accept defeat, and she was proud of how they withstood the punch and came out on the other end victorious.
“Give it to West Marshall, they played tough defense and they always do, especially if they are down or even close to a team,” Gann said. “Their third quarter is usually one of their best quarters. We told the kids that but we were able to at least maintain and even when they got within two we buckled down and that’s when we started taking back over.”
West Marshall head coach Fred Zeller said the plan coming out of halftime was to slow down Willems, which they were able to do considering she only scored two points in the second half.
“It was the same thing we talked about before the game, find the Willems girl and (Aubrie) Fisher, their main shooters,” he said. “We didn’t find them well in the first half but we changed defenses up in the second half and got a little more help but we dug ourselves a hole by giving some wide open looks to probably one of the best shooters we will see all year.”
While Willems was held in check in the second half, Fisher went to work, scoring seven of her 13 points in the final 16 minutes.
There was a noticeable piece missing on Friday for the Trojans, as leading scorer Brooke Snider was sitting in the stands rather than playing on the court. Snider seemingly has quit the team, announcing on her Instagram account that “it was great while it lasted. #10 out.”
Zeller did not want to comment on Snider’s absence, but he did say he was happy with how his girls played considering they were missing a player averaging over 14 points a game this season.
“The group that we had tonight is a little bit different than what we have, but I thought our kids for considering we didn’t have much time to put it together, but I thought they played well overall,” he said.
With Snider out, the scoring load fell on the shoulders of senior Isabelle Gradwell, something the Cougars knew as well as the Trojans. Zeller said AGWSR did a good job making Gradwell’s life hard, and when that happens someone else needs to step up and make some plays.
“They did a good job of playing defense on Isabelle and making her work for her shots,” Zeller said. “She had to work to get the ball and work with the ball and they had good help. We missed some shots that would have made it a closer game down the stretch, we had a good run at them but then we had a couple of turnovers that took the momentum away.”
Gradwell finished the night with 12 points to lead the Trojans, followed by Emma Meyer and Teresa Disney with 11 each.
Though this was the first time West Marshall has ended up on the losing end this season, Zeller said there was no shame falling to a team as quality as AGWSR.
“We’re not hanging our heads, we got beat by a pretty dang good team,” he said.
West Marshall hits the road for its next game on Tuesday, where the Trojans will take on South Hardin in another NICL West showdown. AGWSR hosts Gladbrook-Reinbeck for its home opener on Tuesday as well.
AGWSR 52, West Marshall 43
At State Center
AGWSR (2-0, 1-0) — Ally Finger 0 1-2 1, Mandy Willems 6 3-3 20, Aubrie Fisher 5 1-2 13, Taryan Barrick 1 3-4 5, Rachel Sicard 2 0-0 4, Alyssa Hames 2 0-0 5, Toni Brandt 0 0-0 0, McKenna Kuper 2 0-0 4, Whitanie Nederhoff 0 0-0 0. TOTALS 18 8-11 52.
WEST MARSHALL (3-1, 0-1) — Kayla Cripps 0 2-2 2, Isabelle Gradwell 4 3-4 12, Emma Meyer 3 4-4 11, Teresa Disney 3 5-6 11, Renae Schaper 2 0-0 4, Avril Sinning 0 0-0 0, Karlyn Snider 0 3-4 0, Grace Girard 0 0-0 0. TOTALS 12 17-20 52.
AGWSR 14 17 5 16 — 52
WM 13 11 10 9 — 43
3-Point Goals–AGWSR 8 (Willems 5, Fisher 2, Hames), WM 2 (Gradwell, Meyer). Total Fouls–AGWSR 14, WM 11. Fouled Out–none.