Lady Cardinals nearly knock off eventual state champs
DODGE CITY— Going into Class 1A-DII state basketball action, Wetmore girls coach Perry Smith noted his team was ready to embrace its underdog role, especially after surviving the tough Twin Valley League schedule this season.
The Cardinals proved how much bite they had in quarterfinal action on Wednesday as the seventh seed nearly knocked off second-seeded Beloit-St. John’s, the eventual state champion, before falling 52-49 in the end.
A slow start hindered Wetmore early and may have been a factor in the end, as the Blue Jays pushed the pace to jump out to an 18-9 lead in the first quarter.
“We looked like we were in mud that first part of the game and they looked like they were in a track meet. They put some easy baskets in and we didn’t do a good job in transition,” Smith said.
In the second quarter, it was all Wetmore early as the team bounced back and took a 22-21 lead at one point, but Beloit-St. John’s answered with a 13-0 run to close out the quarter and take a 34-22 lead into the locker room at halftime. Brenna Eilert and Elizabeth Walter helped lead that charge for the Blue Jays, finishing with 20 and 18 points in the game, respectively.
That was a key point in the game, but Smith noted while his team may have kept digging itself into holes, Wetmore also showed a penchant for fighting its way out when the team’s back was against the wall.
Starting out that way in the third quarter, the Cardinals started to chip away at the Blue Jays’ lead and that was due in part to the team playing its style of basketball in the second half.
“We finally got to get into our pressure packages and kind of got the tempo going playing up and down a little bit better, more our style, which really helped in the second half,” Smith said.
Neither team shot very well in the game, with Wetmore hitting 34 percent from the field and Beloit-St. John’s converting at only a slightly better 36 percent right.
With the Blue Jays holding a major rebounding advantage in Wednesday’s game (47 to 26), the Cardinals needed to find their edge. With the way Beloit-St John’s was playing defense, it really left only one option.
“They packed it in so tight that everything that was open was outside and they kind of took away driving lanes, so we had to hit some shots and we did,” Smith said.
For the game, Wetmore shot 43.5 percent from behind the three-point line, making 10 of 23 attempts in the game. Leading scorer Dakota McQueen (18 points) had half of those herself, while Gerae Haverkamp hit a pair from beyond the arc and finished with an equally strong 17-point effort while Keri Pfrang hit three three-pointers and finished with 12 points.
In the end, the game boiled down to execution in high-pressure scenarios and the Blue Jays got the better of the Cardinals in those situations. Wetmore actually held a one-point lead with 50 seconds left in the game, but missing two front ends of one-and-one situations at the free throw line were critical for the Cardinals.
Wetmore made just seven of 17 free throws in the first round game, while Beloit-St. John’s was 13 of 17 and proved clutch down the stretch.
Still, the Cardinals had one last chance to keep their upset bid going. Wetmore worked the ball up the floor with six seconds left and McQueen got a good final look that was on point, but came up just a little short and allowed the Blue Jays to survive and advance to the 1A-DII state semifinals.
Beloit-St. John’s made more plays in the end, Smith said, and that proved to be the key difference in the game. It may have been disappointing, especially with how Wetmore has been playing down the stretch, but it was not surprising to Smith how much that impacted the game.
“When you go to the state tournament, every possession and everything you do is amplified to a degree that your mistakes really stand out,” Smith said. “That was just one of those games that if we would’ve played a little better in certain stretches we would’ve been a lot happier with the outcome.”
The Cardinals end the season 16-9 overall and while a loss like that may have made the trip back home a little longer, Smith noted it didn’t take away from the strides the team made this season and could continue to make in the future.
“The first game of the year, I had a lot of questions, but how we finished up, we could play with anybody,” Smith said. “We’re a young group. They have a lot of aspirations of going back and if we continue to work hard and get things going our way, we’ll sure have that opportunity.”
March 11, 2015
WHS: McQueen 5 (5) 3-7 18, G. Haverkamp 7 (2) 1-2 17, Pfrang 3 (3) 3-5 12, C. Haverkamp 1 0-0 2. Totals- 16 (10) 7-17 49.
BSJ: Eilert 8 (2) 2-2 20, Walter 5 (1) 7-8 18, Smith 1 3-5 5, Hollerich 2 1-2 5, Miller 1 0-0 2, Shellito 1 0-0 2. Totals- 18 (3) 13-17 52.
Rebounding: WHS- 26 (G. Haverkamp 8, M. Henry 7, McQueen 6); BSJ- 47 (Walter 9, Hollerich 9, Eilert 8).
Assists: WHS- 11 (C. Haverkamp 3, Pfrang 3); BSJ- 9 (Smith 3, Eilert 3).
Turnovers: WHS- 8; BSJ- 14.