Comets streak to new highs
ACKLEY — Comets head coach Dave Lee took a deep breath as the clock went down to zero. Then, he joined his jubilant players in a group hug.
The pressure was off — the Comets had won.
For the first time this season, BCLUW girls’ basketball team beat the AGWSR Cougars. The 40-36 road victory pushes the Comets (15-9) into the 1A Region 1 Final, held Wednesday night at Mason City High School against Class 1A No. 1 Bishop Garrigan.
The win is Lee’s 500th total in high school basketball, gathered coaching the BCLUW boys and girls’ teams over the years. He mentioned that he got his 400th win in Ackley with the boys’ team, so it was a funny coincidence to get his 500th in the same place.
The Comets trailed once all game long, when the score was 4-3 Cougars (14-8) midway through the first quarter. What followed was a 10-0 Comets run to take a 13-4 lead and never trailed again, keeping the high-powered AGWSR attackers largely at bay.
Lee said it was an inspired performance from the Comets defensively.
“They play with each other so well,” Lee said. “They help each other on the court, they talk to each other on the court defensively and that’s a key thing. They’re the best girls’ team I’ve had to do that kind of thing.”
BCLUW had considerable struggles with the Cougars’ frontcourt in their two prior meetings — but Morgan Bakker and Grace Finger scored a combined 14 points on Friday.
Alyssa Hames scored 16 to lead all scorers, and she was a key part of the Cougars’ ability to stay in the game despite general offensive struggles.
When the Comets had the ball, the Cougars keyed in on Allison Engle. The junior was face-guarded the whole game, and oftentimes it took the shape of a box-and-one. This put more pressure on the team’s secondary players to deliver — and one senior in particular stepped up with scoring help. Engle finished with seven points.
Lizzie Garber hadn’t shot well from 3-point range in the regular season, but when left open against the Cougars she let fly. Garber buried four threes, with three of them coming in the second half to help pad the Comets’ lead in key moments.
Lee was impressed by Garber’s shooting but maintained it took a little bit from everybody to overcome the lessened scoring from Engle.
“It was nice to have Lizzie knock some shots down,” Lee said. “It was a lot of people besides the two people you look at all the time on our team to do something that came through for us.”
Garber scored a team-high 14 points. Her three with 3:30 left in the game put BCLUW up 40-28. For the final three minutes, the Comets were in hold-on mode and didn’t score another point. Chloe Walters scored 10 points.
The last three minutes were tense, as AGWSR inched closer to completing a rushed comeback. A missed three from Makenna Kuper was the Cougars’ last gasp, but it was a harmless airball and the Comets led the final two seconds run out.
Wednesday at 7 p.m. the Comets go up against a juggernaut in Bishop Garrigan, whose only loss is to Class 5A No. 10 West Des Moines Valley by four points.
BCLUW 40, AGWSR 36
BCLUW (15-9) — Lizzie Garber 5 0-1 14, Presley Engle 0 0-0 0, Allison Engle 3 1-4 7, Betula Messerly 2 0-0 6, Chloe Walters 5 0-1 10, Anistyn Borsch-Rash 1 0-0 3, Katie Hill 0 0-0 0. TOTALS 16 1-6 40.
AGWSR (14-8) — Alyssa Hames 5 5-6 16, Brynn Smith 0 0-0 0, Makenna Kuper 2 2-3 6, Morgan Bakker 2 2-2 6, Grace Finger 2 4-4 8, Kienzie Hoodjer 0 0-0 0, Ava Olson 0 0-0 0. TOTALS 11 13-15 36.
BCLUW 13 9 11 7 — 40
AGWSR 8 10 6 12 — 36
3-Point Goals: BCLUW 7 (Garber 4, Messerly 2, Borsch-Rash), AGWSR 1 (Hames). Total Fouls — BCLUW 14, AGWSR 11. Fouled Out — none.