by Steve Peterson
History is often made at the regional final level with a bid to a state tournament on the line. Sometimes, such as in a 58-57 win last year over Newell-Fonda by West Sioux, you make it and celebrate. The Lady Falcons had a 25-2 record and were Class 1A State Semifinalist in 2011-2012.
Other years, such as Monday’s 60-41 loss to Central Lyon at the Sioux Center Class 1A regional final, the Falcons could conclude for one half it was their night, but not enough to beat the top-ranked Lions, who gained their first trip to state.
West Sioux led 25-19 at halftime with their biggest lead at 18-12 in the second quarter off a Jade Lynn Vlotho basket.
“The start of the second half completely changed the game. We had them out of sync in the first half, and their press bothered us in the second half. They had us going horizontally (across the court) and not vertically toward the basket,” said West Sioux coach Dennis Weerheim.
Vlotho left the game in the closing seconds to the cheers of backers of both teams. She finished her final game as a Falcon with 23 points of the team’s 41. Her basket was the final one for West Sioux when it had the first half momentum and the six-point lead.
Lady Falcons’ fellow senior Bailey VanDenBerg chipped in with nine points. Sophomore Callie Schmidt added five.
Weerheim praised his team’s effort from the get-go.
“One step away from state” was the message to players and the Lady Falcons took it to heart early. Two Vlotho hoops made it 4-0. Another basket and two free throws and it was 8-4 Lady Falcons. A key three-pointer by Central Lion’s Kori Schulte trimmed the lead to 10-9 after one quarter.
An 8-1 West Sioux run opened up the second quarter lead, capped off by a free throw by Schmidt and a hoop by Vlotho. The Lions scored seven points and the Lady Falcons had three turnovers the rest of the stanza. Still a Vlotho hoop off a VanDenBerg assist and the Lady Falcons were in control, 25-19.
But the lead was dashed away with the same firepower as the gale-storm wind outside would against a small unsuspecting vehicle.
A full-court press resulted in a quick tie off a three-pointer by Schulte (team leader with 18 points and 12 rebounds). Three minutes into the second half, it was an 11-0 run by Central Lyon as Sarah Halse hit a three-pointer. West Sioux had seven turnovers in the quarter, and it was 40-27 Central Lyon after three quarters with the only Lady Falcons’ points coming on a Vlotho hoop.
West Sioux cut the lead to eight points early in the fourth quarter on a Vlotho three-point play but could get no closer. The Lions were 12-of-14 from the free throw line in the second half. Their win was powered by a 20-0 start to the second half. Senior Lexi Ackerman finished with 12 points.
Despite the loss, a 15-9 overall record season is still a solid one. It was West Sioux’s third straight trip to the regional final.
“Going to the regional final three straight years is huge. It’s a tradition now and it is expected, Everyone tried hard and gave 100 percent tonight. I can’t fault the effort. It was a great season,” said Weerheim.
Central Lyon claimed their first trip to state and the coveted banner and a game Feb. 25 at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. They were determined to play for Kelcey Ackerman, Lexi’s sister, who was hurt early in the tournament.
This Monday being Presidents’ Day, one could not tell a lie, the Lions were just better than the Lady Falcons and had good reason to celebrate their 23-1 overall record.
A few feet away as the Lions celebrated their achievement, the Lady Falcons’ seniors, all-War Eagle Conference: First Team Jade Lynn Vlotho, Second Team member Carissa Anderson and fellow seniors Bailey VanDenBerg and Courtney Hummel could reflect on a 57-win three seasons as regional finalists and working hard as their coach said, for all four years.
WEC goes 0-3
It was a tough night for three War Eagle Conference teams seeking bids to the girls’ state tournament.
In addition to West Sioux’s loss, Gehlen Catholic lost to ArWeVa, 58-45, in Class 1A and Hinton lost, 88-79, to Lawton-Bronson in Class 2A.