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Wolverines win OT thriller

GMG pulls off season sweep of North Tama

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE - GMG senior Kelsey Vaverka tries to steal the ball from North Tama junior Takoa Kopriva (5) during the first quarter of Sunday’s Iowa Star Conference South Division basketball game in Traer. Vaverka had career-highs of 22 points and 14 rebounds in GMG’s 56-54 overtime win.

TRAER — Before hoards of people tuned in to watch the Super Bowl in Atlanta on Sunday evening, there was some sports action going on in our own back yard.

The GMG and North Tama girls basketball teams faced off in a rare Sunday afternoon game, and of course with such an unusual time for a contest it couldn’t be decided in regulation.

The Wolverines trailed late in the fourth quarter but a couple of clutch plays by Kelsey Vaverka tied things up at 47-all, then in overtime GMG was able to outlast the Redhawks for a 56-54 victory.

Considering this was only his team’s second win in the last eight games, Wolverine head coach Justin Hornberg said he’ll take it any way he can get it.

“We needed to win, we’ve been struggling since the [winter break] and we needed this one. It’s a good win for us,” Hornberg said.

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE - GMG defenders Mable Dieleman (15) and Emily Vaughn, right, battle with North Tama’s Carlie Gorder for a loose ball during Sunday’s game in Traer.

It was by no means a pretty game as GMG (9-9, 3-6) had 28 fouls called against it and North Tama (2-17, 0-11) was whistled 31 times. Still, Hornberg said his girls found a way to pull it out.

“It’s always good to get something like this,” he said. “There were a total 59 fouls, there was no offensive flow on either end, you’d come down and there is a foul, then there was an inbounds pass and a foul. I guess learning how to play through some of those tough situations like that is the big thing for us.”

While GMG was able to find a way to win, Redhawk head coach Shawn Larmore was left once again scratching his head after his girls lost another close game.

“We had built a lead there for a while and I was hoping we would build it a little more and extend it but towards the end there when it was close we couldn’t get over the hump,” Larmore said. “The girls kept battling and battling and I am proud of the effort, but it just comes back to turning the ball over too much tonight and our free throws.”

A big reason the Wolverines walked out victorious was the effort by Vaverka. Not only did she score the final three points in regulation to tie the game, she also nailed a 3-pointer with her first shot in overtime to put her team up 50-47. Vaverka finished the day with career-highs of 22 points and 14 rebounds, and she nearly had a triple-double after recording seven steals.

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE - North Tama sophomore Abby DeBoef (23) goes up for the shot in front of GMG junior Belle Duncan (21) during the first half of their Iowa Star Conference South Division contest Sunday in Traer.

“When she hit the three to start overtime, I told [assistant coach Melisa Dieleman], ‘if we win this game it’s because she is willing us to.’ She was basically doing everything she could to make sure we won that basketball game. Although she does some head-scratching things at times that make me wonder what she’s doing and thinking, it’s one of those deals where you have to take the good with the bad because at most times you are getting way more good than bad.

Vaverka wasn’t the only player on the court with a career-high double-double, however, as North Tama junior Carlie Gorder finished with career-highs of 14 points and 11 rebounds, and Abby DeBoef also had career-highs of 14 points and 15 boards.

Larmore said as the season has progressed both DeBoef and Gorder have come alive for his squad.

“They both have been playing real well the last few games for us, and we need that,” he said. “They keep improving too, those two girls. They are both coming off the bench and we have to get production out of them, and they did a good job of getting rebounds and making plays.”

Rylee McLean also had a career high in rebounds for North Tama with a game-high 17 boards to go along with nine points.

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE

“She has got to be getting those boards every night, and she works her tail off in there,” Larmore said of McLean’s presence inside. “We have got to have her doing that if we are going to be in these games and compete, and she knows that. She has a potential to be a real force for us going down the road.”

While Vaverka was the statistical powerhouse for the Wolverines, she by no means did it all alone. Zoe Duncan had nine points and seven rebounds before fouling out with just over two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, and Mable Dieleman had eight points to go along with six rebounds.

Duncan was the first Wolverine to foul out, but Madi Krull followed less than a minute later when she picked up her fifth foul with 1:45 left in the fourth. Vaverka even fouled out with 51.3 seconds left in overtime, but girls who aren’t normally called upon to lead like Belle Duncan and Emily Vaughn picked up the slack.

“Losing Zoe with five fouls, Madi with five fouls, Kelsey at the end with five, I thought Belle stepped up and played big for us,” Hornberg said. “There were long stretches there where she was really active. She wasn’t getting her shot down but she was getting to the free-throw line and getting some points. Emily controlled the ball for the most part, she’s young and you can tell she hasn’t been in those tight-pressure situations like that.”

Belle had six points and a career-high eight rebounds, while Vaugh had seven points, five of which were in the fourth quarter and overtime.

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE

The game could have been much higher scoring on both sides had either team shot better at the free-throw line. GMG finished 18-for-39 from the charity stripe, while North Tama went 15-for-33, and Hornberg said that his girls have to capitalize better on their free throws.

“I told them after the game that there’s a reason we give 10 minutes of practice time for free throw,” he said. “They don’t usually take it seriously, but tonight they see why I do that because moments like this where you have got to have those free throws.”

The Redhawks went 4-for10 on free throws in overtime alone, and Larmore said he can’t help but feel like this one slipped away.

“We had plenty of opportunities to win the ballgame,” he said. “We knock down a couple free throws here or there, get a loose ball here or there and we are right there. Even if we could have gotten to another overtime, we had plenty of girls left and they were running out of bodies.”

After such a thrilling contest on Sunday afternoon, it was going to take a lot for the Super Bowl to overshadow the thrill of victory for GMG. In fact, Hornberg was still upset about the end of the AFC Championship Game between the New Enlgand Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs.

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE

“I’m still upset that Mahomes never got to touch the ball in overtime,” Hornberg said with a grin.

Both teams are now in their final days before starting the postseason, as North Tama starts the Class 1A Region 3 tournament on Thursday at Don Bosco and GMG gets the 1A Region 4 tournament underway at home on Thursday against HLV.

Larmore said though his girls haven’t seen the win column much this season, that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything to play for with the regional tournament quickly approaching.

“I told the girls after the game we have to keep fighting because we keep preaching to them that we have a lot of potential here,” he said.

Hornberg said there’s still plenty left to do in the regular season to prepare for the first round of regionals.

“There’s no rest for us, we’ve got East Marshall tomorrow night and they are a good ball club and a bigger school. They always give us problems because they are quicker, stronger and faster than us,” he said. “We have to get home, get off our feet and get some rest to get ready for Senior Night, then we have a tough, tough game against Clarksville on Tuesday.”

GMG 56, North Tama 54, OT

At Traer

GMG (9-9, 3-6) — Madi Krull 0 0-0 0, Zoe Duncan 3 3-5 9, Mable Dieleman 2 3-5 8, Tory Novotny 1 2-4 4, Kelsey Vaverka 7 6-11 22, Belle Duncan 1 4-12 6, Emily Vaughn 3 0-2 7, Jordan Yilek 0 0-0 0. TOTALS 17 18-39 56.

NORTH TAMA (2-17, 0-11) — Carlie Gorder 5 0-3 14, Takoa Kopriva 2 2-5 7, Katie Kopriva 1 0-0 2, Hope Brubaker 1 0-1 2, Madeline Espenscheid 0 0-0 0, Katelyn Kucera 0 0-0 0, Carissa Calderwood 0 0-0 0, Molly Kvidera 2 0-0 6, Rylee McLean 2 5-10 9, Abby DeBoef 3 8-14 14. TOTALS 16 15-33 54.

GMG 12 12 15 8 9 — 56

N. TAMA 15 13 9 10 7 — 54

3-Point Goals–GMG 4 (Vaverka 2, Dieleman, Vaughn), NT 7 (Gorder 4, Kvidera 2, T. Kopriva). Total Fouls–GMG 28, NT 31. Fouled Out–Z. Duncan, Krull, Vaverka, K. Kopriva.

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