So close

Spartan comeback falls short against Cascade

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE • Grundy Center juniors Cora Saak, left, and Hailey Wallis bear the emotion of a 41-37 loss to Cascade in Saturday’s Class 2A girls’ state basketball championship game at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.

DES MOINES — With just 4.2 seconds remaining on the clock, the Grundy Center girls had the ball trailing Cascade 39-37 in the 2A championship game of the Iowa Girls’ High School State Basketball Tournament Saturday at Wells Fargo Arena.

Spartans head coach Matt Lindeman called a timeout after Grundy Center was awarded possession on a jump ball, so he was able to get a play drawn up to hopefully get at least two points and send the title game into overtime.

What ensued, however, was not the play drawn up, as the Spartans attempted to inbound the ball into the backcourt only for Cougars’ sophomore Nicole McDermott to steal the pass and get fouled. McDermott walked up to the free throw line and sunk both shots, sealing the deal for Cascade with a 41-37 victory, the first girls’ state basketball title in Cougar program history.

After the game, Lindeman said the inbounds play didn’t go as he drew it up, but ultimately the ball didn’t bounce in his team’s direction.

“It was going to be a lot closer, it was scheduled to be a lot closer, [junior Hailey Wallis] was supposed to run off a couple picks and squeeze it but it is what it is,” Lindeman said. “They laid it on the line and sometimes execution works and sometimes it doesn’t but you can’t fault the effort.”

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON • The Grundy Center girls basketball team poses with its medals and trophies earned after finishing as the 2A runner-up in the Iowa Girls’ High School State Basketball Tournament on Saturday at Wells Fargo Arena.

It took an incredible effort for the Spartans to even be in the game with just seconds remaining on the clock. Grundy Center trailed by nine heading to the fourth quarter, and all night the Spartans couldn’t buy a basket.

Wallis went to work at the start of the fourth, earning a set of free throws to start the quarter then recording a steal off the press immediately after sinking both shots. Wallis would make three more trips to the charity stripe, sinking all her shots, and Grundy Center found itself down only one point with six minutes remaining in the game.

The Cougars finally started to hit again after the 8-0 run to start the fourth, but the Spartans wouldn’t go away, as Wallis hit a 3-pointer then went back to the line for another two foul shots, nailing both to tie the game up at 37 points, the first tie since the first quarter.

Despite not coming out on top, Wallis said she and the rest of the team gave fans something to remember.

“Even though we came up a little bit short I think people are going to remember …” Wallis broke off, her emotions making words impossible to get out. “I think what people are going to remember us most for is we never gave up,” she continued, fighting back tears along the way. “We just kept battling back, and that’s not something we really had to talk about because that’s something we always do and it’s something that we always strive to do every game we play.”

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE • Grundy Center junior Hailey Wallis (13) splits Cascade defenders Jordan Simon, right, and Molly McElmeel during the Spartans’ 41-37 loss to the Cougars in the 2A state championship on Saturday. Wallis scored 29 points in the loss, including setting a new five-player tournament record with 18 made free throws.

Wallis herself gave fans in attendance and watching at home a game to remember. In the final three quarters, Wallis scored all 24 points for Grundy Center, finishing the night with a game-high 29 points and team-highs of eight rebounds and five steals, all while committing one turnover while holding the ball most of the way.

She set a new five-player state-tournament record by going 18-for-18 at the line, and Wallis’ efforts helped solidify her spot as the 2A all-tournament team captain. Lindeman said there are rare players who have the ability to put a team on their backs and carry them to a championship, and Wallis just about pulled that off.

“I am just so proud of her, she was basically willing us to a victory and that’s been done here. There are lots of players that have done that, and I am just so proud of her,” Lindeman said. “She has come so far in this tournament time, not just at the state tournament but in our regional games, and it just shows she is willing to battle and go and go and I couldn’t be prouder.”

Part of why Wallis had to take the scoring load over was because Cascade was able to lock down the rest of the Spartans. Brooke Flater and Kylie Willis were the only other Grundy Center players to score, each of them putting in four points in the first quarter, and as a team the Spartans shot just 16.3 percent from the floor.

Flater said, even without starting interior defender Abbie Ruggeberg, the Cougars were able to just lock down the paint all evening.

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON • Pictured is the 2A all-tournament team. From left, Nicole McDermott from Cascade, Kayla Chapman from Treynor, Chloe Lofstrom from North Union, Maddie McMartin from Grundy Center, Jordan Simon from Cascade and team captain Hailey Wallis from Grundy Center.

“They really packed it in and crashed when we got the ball,” Flater said. “They did a great job on that.”

There wasn’t much scoring done on the other side either, as McDermott finished with 15 points to lead Cascade, followed by Anne Ryan with 13 and Simon Jordan with 11. Only one other Cougar found the bottom of the net, as Abby Welter hit the two free throws that gave Cascade the 39-37 lead near the end.

Spartans junior Maddie McMartin was given the tough task of slowing down McDermott with one-on-one pressure throughout the night, and she was fairly effective against the talented sophomore.

“I just had to do my job and try to stop her as much as I could,” McMartin said. “Try to relieve some of the pressure off the other girls for helping and see if I could get it done by myself, but if I couldn’t they were there to help me.”

McMartin’s ability to lock down defenders in one-on-one situations was a big part of the reason why she was also selected as part of the six-player all-tournament squad alongside Wallis.

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE • Former Grundy Center great Kim Van Deest, left, received an induction into the IGHSAU Basketball Hall of Fame during halftime of the 2A championship. Van Deest was the captain of the 1988 6-on-6 all-tournament team despite her Spartans being eliminated in the semifinals.

Lindeman said it was great to see a girl like McMartin get on the all-tournament team, especially since her contributions aren’t as easily seen in a box score.

“I’ve been saying this for a long time, the job that Maddie and Sydney [Mathews] do, they are always taking the top people or switching off and all of that, so I am so thankful that got rewarded,” Lindeman said. “It’s so hard when there isn’t something concrete statistically out there for people to look at to give props to athletes and to the girls. It’s not easy for kids to want to buy into playing defense, everyone wants to shoot the ball and play offense, so I am just so proud and glad that she was rewarded with that.”

This is a loss that is going to hurt, and it’s going to hurt for some time. Coming up so close, especially after the epic comeback necessary to make it a close game, ultimately to come away empty handed is one of the most heartbreaking things an athlete can experience.

But that does not take away from what was a great season this Spartans team has gone through. They lost two games, one during the regular season to 1A state-qualifier AGWSR, and one in the final game on the biggest stage in the state.

Lindeman said even the way they lost on Saturday was a microcosm of just what this team has done all season to be successful.

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE

“I am so proud of how just very symbolic this game was tonight,” Lindeman said. “It wasn’t pretty at times, yes, and we wanted to win it, so that will hurt but the way these girls fought back people will remember a lot longer than if we were a state champion or state runner-up. They will remember what effort these girls gave.”

This was the first trip to Wells Fargo Arena for every player on this team, as the last time the Spartans were in state was back in 2005, so many of the girls were grateful just to get this as an experience.

“It’s been amazing, we didn’t really expect to get this far but we wanted to and it’s awesome just to get this far,” McMartin said.

Looking toward the future, every girl who played in the three games at state for Grundy Center will be back on the team next year, as all five starters and every player who came in off the bench were juniors. Lindeman said it can be dangerous saying the girls are a lock to return to the Well during their senior season, but they won’t lack for incentive.

“You have to take advantage of the moment when you have it here and we almost brought home the whole thing,” he said. “Next year is next year, there are no guarantees, we have to stay hungry and we will use this as easy motivation. It’s a long season and a long process, and we have to enjoy this right here. What we did here and what these girls did is pretty special.”

Even immediately after the game it was clear all the Spartans were ready to go ahead and start next season because they are all determined to make next season one for the history books.

“We don’t like losing, we don’t like this feeling, only one team comes out happy and unfortunately it wasn’t us but I bet we are going to make sure it is us next year,” Wallis said, the sadness in her voice giving way to determination.

Iowa High School Girls’ State Basketball Tournament

At Wells Fargo Arena, Des Moines

CLASS 5A

Quarterfinals

Monday, Feb. 26

Johnston 73, Waukee 48

Iowa City High 78, Valley 62

Iowa City West 63, Dowling Catholic 53, OT

Indianola 64, Cedar Falls 63

Semifinals

Thursday, March 1

Iowa City High 58, Johnston 52

Iowa City West 58, Indianola 45

Championship

Friday, March 2

Iowa City West 56, Iowa City High 45

CLASS 4A

Quarterfinals

Monday, Feb. 26

Center Point-Urbana 69, Boone 47

Marion 71, Fairfield 39

Grinnell 70, Mason City 51

Tuesday, Feb. 27

Le Mars 52, Lewis Central 43

Semifinals

Thursday, March 1

Marion 56, Center Point-Urbana 46

Grinnell 68, Le Mars 47

Championship

Friday, March 2

Marion 69, Grinnell 48

CLASS 3A

Quarterfinals

Tuesday, Feb. 27

Crestwood 66, South Tama County 28

North Polk 64, Davenport Assumption 47

Monticello 61, Clear Lake 50

Sioux Center 76, Red Oak 60

Semifinals

Thursday, March 1

Crestwood 72, North Polk 48

Sioux Center 65, Monticello 57

Championship

Saturday, March 3

Crestwood 73, Sioux Center 48

CLASS 2A

Quarterfinals

Tuesday, Feb. 27

Treynor 54, West Sioux 30

Grundy Center 46, Iowa City Regina 45

Wednesday, Feb. 28

Cascade 61, Dike-New Hartford 44

North Union 47, Panorama 46

Semifinals

Friday, March 2

Grundy Center 42, Treynor 39

Cascade 62, North Union 53, 3OT

Championship

Saturday, March 3

Cascade 41, Grundy Center 37

CLASS 1A

Quarterfinals

Wednesday, Feb. 28

Springville 54, Bishop Garrigan 36

Exira/Elk Horn-Kimballton 57, AGWSR 47

Newell-Fonda 61, Kee, Lansing 45

Central Decatur 52, Montezuma 48

Semifinals

Friday, March 2

Springville 57, Exira/Elk Horn-Kimballton 41

Newell-Fonda 52, Central Decatur 48

Championship

Saturday, March 3

Springville 60, Newell-Fonda 49

——

Cascade 41, Grundy Center 37

GRUNDY CENTER (24-2) — Hailey Wallis 4-18 18-18 29, Maddie McMartin 0-5 0-0 0, Sydney Mathews 0-1 0-0 0, Kylie Willis 2-8 0-1 4, Brooke Flater 2-7 0-0 4, Reegan Zinkula 0-3 0-0 0, Sarah Lindeman 0-3 0-0 0, Cora Saak 0-4 0-0 0. TOTALS 8-49 18-19 37.

CASCADE (25-3) — Nicole McDermott 4-8 6-8 15, Anne Ryan 5-15 1-1 13, Jordan Simon 4-7 0-0 11, Rachel Trumm 0-3 0-0 0, Abby Welter 0-4 2-3 2, Skylar Dolphin 0-1 0-0 0, Zoe Ryan 0-2 0-0 0, Molly McElmeel 0-0 0-0 0. TOTALS 13-40 9-12 41.

GRUNDY CTR. 13 2 9 13 — 37

CASCADE 14 8 11 8 — 41

3-Point Goals–GC 3-25 (Wallis 3-12, Willis 0-2, Lindeman 0-2, Saak 0-2, Zinkula 0-3, McMartin 0-4), Cascade 6-16 (Simon 3-5, A. Ryan 2-8, McDermott 1-1, Z. Ryan 0-2). Rebounds–GC 29 (Wallis 8), Cascade 40 (Trumm 12). Assists–GC 7 (Mathews 3), Cascade 8 (McDermott 4). Total Fouls–GC 16, Cascade 15. Fouled Out–none.

——

All-Tournament Teams

CLASS 3A

Shannon Pisney, Crestwood

Taylor McDonald, Monticello

Sharon Goodman, Crestwood

Jaedon Murphy, North Polk

Lexi Toering, Sioux Center

Ellie Friesen, Crestwood (captain)

CLASS 2A

Jordan Simon, Cascade

Maddie McMartin, Grundy Center

Chloe Lofstrom, North Union

Kayla Chapman, Treynor

Nicole McDermott, Cascade

Hailey Wallis, Grundy Center (captain)

CLASS 1A

Rylee Menster, Springville

Megan Morenz, Newell-Fonda

Alli Masters, Central Decatur

Sophia Peppers, Exira/Elk Horn-Kimballton

Olivia Larsen, Newell-Fonda

Mikayla Nachazel, Springville (captain)

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE