By Steve Peterson
For the first time in 11 seasons the Akron-Westfield girls’ basketball team has gained a chance to go to the Class 1A Iowa High School Girls Athletic Union (IGHSAU) State Tournament.
A balanced attack on offense and a well-executed game plan on defense gave A-W a 52-38 win over Westwood before a home capacity crowd.
After The Akron Hometowner’s press deadline this week, the Lady Westerners faced Exira-Elk Horn-Kimballton at Maple Valley-Anthon-Oto in Mapleton Feb. 20 for the right to go to Des Moines for a Feb. 27 game
“We watched film of Charter Oak-Ute and how they broke the Westwood press the game before,” said A-W Head Coach Kent Johnson. “In practice we went up against the boys’ C Team players and that helped a lot. We did a good job of defense and they all worked together and talked.”
After an 8-4 deficit early, A-W had a 23-7 run for a 27-15 halftime lead. From then on, it was a matter of hanging on for dear life as the Lady Rebels made their runs and cut the lead to 44-35 with 2:19 left. Senior Ann Hedlund contributed her only points of the night on four-for-four free throws to seal the double-digit margin.
“You have to be calm against their press,” said Hedlund. “They want you to get excited.”
Senior Callie Henrich scored 15 points.
Senior Danika Tindall was next with 14 points and sophomore Brooke Koele had 10 points.
Davis and Tindall led the 29-rebounds effort with seven each.
Two motivational factors helped the Lady Westerners on Friday.
The big girls’ basketball win came on the same night Callie Henrich’s brother, John, remained unbeaten and gained a spot at the State Wrestling Championship at 160 pounds.
“I want to be as good as John,” said Callie, who headed to Des Moines the next morning where John won the Class 1A State Title at 160 pounds the next day.
“Assistant Coach Mike Baker gave us a great inspirational speech before the game,” said Callie, about the other factor. “We worked our hardest and had a great game plan,” said Henrich.
Early on Westwood gave the A-W faithful a scare as it had come in with 15 60-plus point games and led 12-8 after eight minutes.
A-W tied the game in the second quarter and took a 21-13 lead on a fast-break finish basket by Henrich. She added another hoop as did Tindall on a put-back shot for the 12-point halftime lead that left the visitors from Sloan in a state of disbelief.
A-W finished the third quarter with a 12-point, 36-24 lead but eight minutes remained against the 13th-ranked Class 1A team. It seemed more like eight hours for fans until A-W ran out the clock.
“I had no voice. We were able to get some nice breaks to the basket,” said Johnson of the fourth quarter.
Bailey Davis fired a 30-foot pass to Brooke Koele for a 42-30 margin, followed by a Tindall basket.
After the celebration Friday, A-W had a chance to add its first-ever girls’ state qualifying banner to the school Feb. 20.
Congrats on being one win away was the theme, as a “victory tunnel” of students sent the girls on to beautiful downtown Mapleton.
Westwood ended with a 17-7 record.
A WW 12- 3-9-14=38
NOTE: A-W lost to Exira/Elk Horn-Kimballton in the Regional Championship game Feb. 20