By Steve Peterson
Thanks for the memories.
Akron-Westfield girls’ basketball team’s efforts led them to a 19-5 record for 2016-2017 season, including a third-place in the War Eagle Conference, a regional win over Lawton-Bronson and another over Westwood, holding both to under 40 points.
A-W brought a huge crowd to the regional final clash with Exira-Elk Horn-Kimballton as Lady Westerners’ fans traveled down the Loess Hills to Mapleton.
Despite a 33-20 lead at halftime and a margin as big as 15 points in the first half, the Lady Westerners were denied their bid to their first state basketball tournament by Exira-EHK, 52-46.
“The girls played so hard,” said A-W Head Coach Kent Johnson. “We were excited at halftime.”
“I’m so proud of the girls,” said the coach. “I knew we were going to be decent but if you said at the beginning of the year we would be 19-5, I’d would have said you’re crazy.”
“I’m just sad for the girls that it had to end this way,” said Johnson.
For A-W’s efforts senior Bailey Davis led the Lady Westerners with 11 points.
Senior Danika Tindall tallied 10 points.
Junior Brynn Van Eldik had nine points.
The Lady Spartans, 23-1 record, threw a shutout of defense at the Lady Westerners, a 16-0 third-quarter run that decided the game. They put all five defenders around the ball in a full-court press that might as well have been the Great Wall of China if you were an A-W dribbler. And that wall could get steals and loose balls.
Johnson said “tired legs” were the main problem in the second half. Plus Exira-EHK’s big advantage of quickness against A-W’s one weakness, ball handling. Also, fouls prevented the Lady Westerners from being as aggressive as they were early, he said.
Unranked A-W faced the third-ranked Class 1A team and came out with upset and Des Moines on their minds. A hoop by Bailey Davis gave A-W a 9-2 lead three minutes into the game. A-W was controlling the rebounding. The Lady Spartans were not shooting well and even missed a few free throws.
A four-point play (three-pointer and a free throw) by Maggie Rasmussen cut the lead to 13-8 but Lady Westerner Brooke Koele’s hoop regained the eight-point lead, 16-8 and another by Koele made it an 18-10 lead after one quarter.
A Tindall hoop opened the gap to 13 points, 25-12 for A-W. Van Eldik had a hoop and Courtney Waterbury a free throw for a 33-18 cushion.
Exira-EHK scored a hoop at the end of the first half but it was still a 33-20 margin.
Exira-EHK reached back into its defensive arsenal as Head Coach Tom Petersen called on his team’s quickness to punch its ticket to Des Moines.
A-W had turnover after turnover in the third stanza, and the Lady Spartans’ fans saw their hopes rise when the A-W lead ended with 2:12 to go. It was only a 36-33 deficit after three quarters, but it’s hard to come back from 16-0.
A-W scored its first field goal in 10 minutes of play when Tindall tallied for a one-point deficit. But the Lady Spartans, led by 23 points by junior and leading scorer Sophia Peppers, just kept scoring. Her three-point play made it a 43-35 lead, and it grew to nine points as the winners made five-of-six free throws.
Ann Hedlund made two free throws for a seven-point deficit at 48-41 with 2:38 left but time was obviously on the Lady Spartans’ side and they took time off the clock each possession. A-W’s fate was sealed with a 51-41 deficit with 50 seconds left.
A-W did score the last two field goals of the game on a Tindall hoop and a three-pointer by Waterbury, but it was not meant to be this Monday.
Defensively, the Lady Westerners kept their most-points-surrendered tally at 55 and the Lady Spartans were 13 points under their average.
Van Eldik, the team’s leading theft maker with 82, added five more steals.
Davis, the squad’s rebound leader with 190, on Monday had 11 of the team’s 31 boards.
A-W seniors Davis, Tindall, Callie Henrich and Hedlund capped their careers this night at Maple Valley-Anthon-Oto.
“I tip my hat to the seniors. They scrimmaged with us when they were in eighth grade and know the system, then Callie moved in,” said Johnson.
The Lady Westerners went for their first regional final win in school history and it was another close call. A-W lost to Charter Oak-Ute to end a 24-2 season in 2005-2006.
Brynn Van Eldik: nine points on 3-of-7 all field goal attempts, 0-of-3 three-point field goal attempts, 3-of-6 free-throw attempts, two rebounds, four assists and five steals.
Bailey Davis: 11 points on 4-of-7 all field goal attempts, 3-of-3 three-point field goal attempts, 11 rebounds and two assists.
Ann Hedlund: two points on 0-of-10 all field goal attempts, 0-of-3 three-point field goal attempts, 2-of-2 free-throw attempts, two rebounds, one assist and three steals.
Danika Tindall: 10 points on 5-of-7 all field goal attempts, six rebounds, two assists and three steals.
Callie Henrich: six points on 2-of-4 all field goal attempts, 0-of-1 three-point field goal attempt, 2-of-2 free-throw attempts, five rebounds, two assists and one steal.
Courtney Waterbury: four points on 1-of-2 all field goal attempts, 1-of-1 three-point field goal attempt, 1-of-2 free-throw attempts, two rebounds and one steal.
Brooke Koele: four points on 2-of-6 all field goal attempts and three rebounds.
Team: 46 points on 17-of-43 all field goal attempts, 4-of-11 three-point field goal attempts, 8-of-12 free-throw attempts, 31 rebounds, 11 assists, 13 steals and three blocked shots.
A-W 18-15- 0-13=46