ALLEMAN – For the second season in a row, a trip to Alleman ended in heartache for the Nevada girls’ basketball team.
The Cubs took on North Polk Friday in a pivotal early Heart of Iowa Conference game between two teams ranked in the top 15 of Class 3A.
Last year Nevada gave up a big lead late, suffering a 50-44 loss.
On Friday the Cubs faced an 11-point deficit midway through the fourth quarter. They managed to cut that deficit clear down to a single point in the final seconds of play, but they couldn’t finish the comeback, finishing with a 56-53 loss.
Nevada, ranked sixth in 3A, was down 48-37 following a Rachel Zimmermann basket for North Polk around the four-minute mark of the fourth quarter. The Cubs had squandered a 30-26 lead in the third quarter ,as the sister combo of Miranda and Megan Murphy combined for 11 straight points to propel the 12th-ranked Comets in front.
But facing a do-or-die situation in the last half of the fourth quarter, Nevada hunkered down and nearly pulled off the big comeback.
Seniors Megan Pringnitz and Jessica Helton got the ball rolling for Nevada. Pringnitz hit a 3-pointer and Helton connected on 1 of 2 free throws to close the Cubs within 48-41 with 2:51 to go in regulation.
After Macy Gill scored on a drive to push the Comet lead back to nine, Nevada missed the front end of three straight one-and-one chances at the foul line. But the Cub defense kept the Comets off the board during that stretch and Helton added a basket off a steal to cut North Polk’s lead to seven.
Gill hit 1 of 2 free throws for North Polk at the 1:09 mark, but Kati Cassabaum answered with a pair of foul shots for Nevada eight seconds later.
Then with 57 seconds to go, freshman Claire Ausman drilled a 3-pointer and suddenly Nevada had pulled within 51-48. Zimmermann canned two big free throws with 46 seconds left for North Polk, but Ausman came right back with another 3-pointer and the Comet lead was suddenly just two points with 32 seconds remaining.
Following a timeout, North Polk nearly turned the ball over trying to get an inbounds pass, and then Zimmermann missed two free throws with 28 seconds left. After Nevada failed to score on its next possession, the Cub defense forced a turnover and Ausman went to the line with 18 seconds to go.
The talented freshman hit 1 of 2 free throws to shrink North Polk’s lead to 53-52.
Six seconds later Zimmermann was fouled again and she made 1 of 2 to put the Comets back up by two. Helton then managed to dribble by the North Polk defense and attack the rim.
She was fouled on a driving shot and sent to the line with five seconds remaining. The senior guard made the first free throw, but missed the second.
Miranda Murphy – an all-state forward – grabbed the rebound for North Polk and she was immediately fouled. The veteran then stepped to the line and drained two clutch free throws to put her team up three.
Helton put up a desperation 3-pointer before the final buzzer, but it was off the mark to leave Nevada painfully short of a big comeback victory.
"Our last four minutes of the game were awesome," Nevada head coach Kristin Meyer said. "Our intensity, our hustle – you could tell we were fighting to win."
A couple of poor shooting stretches and North Polk’s ability to do damage on the offensive glass proved the difference in the game.
"We missed a few shots throughout the game and that’s what hurt us," Meyer said. "It wasn’t anything at the very end."
Nevada shot just 35 percent from the field and made only 10 of 22 free throws for the game. The Cubs also gave up 19 offensive boards as North Polk manufactured a big 43-30 rebounding advantage.
Defense kept Nevada in the game. Thanks to the Cubs’ relentless pressure and the presence of 6-0 center Kati Cassabaum inside, North Polk was also held to 35-percent shooting from the field and the Comets made only three 3-pointers.
The outstanding play of Ausman and fellow freshman Abby Stephenson was also huge for Nevada.
Ausman entered Friday with 15 points over Nevada’s first five games. Against North Polk, she erupted for 17 points after making 6 of 10 shots from the field and 4 of 6 3-pointers, including the two big ones in the final minute of regulation to give the Cubs a shot.
"She’s cold-blooded," North Polk head coach Clint Albertsen said.
Stephenson held all-HOIC guard Megan Murphy to 10 shots from the field and just 12 points.
"Our freshmen are really coming along," Meyer said. "Claire knocked down some big shots in the fourth quarter and Abby did a fantastic job defensively all game long on Megan Murphy. I can’t say enough about their effort, focus and improvement in the short time they’ve had."
Stephenson didn’t score, but she finished with two rebounds and a pair of assists. Ausman also ended up with three steals and a block.
Cassabaum was great defensively inside as she had 12 rebounds and six blocks to go along with seven points and two assists on offense. Pringnitz put up 13 points, six rebounds and six assists in another fine all-around outing, Helton tallied eight points and four rebounds, assists and steals apiece and Emma Lodestein also had eight points.
At the conclusion of the game both teams moved to 4-2 overall and 4-1 in the HOIC.
Miranda Murphy totaled 20 points, 10 rebounds and two steals for North Polk on the night. Megan had 12 points and one assist, Gill finished with 12 points, 11 rebounds and two steals, Zimmermann produced eight points and six rebounds and Hannah Becker added four points and six boards for the Comets.
North Polk 56, Nevada 53
N 7 15 8 23 – 53
NP 14 6 15 21 – 56
Nevada (53) – Claire Ausman 6-10 1-2 17, Abby Stephenson 0-0 0-0 0, Megan Pringnitz 5-17 0-1 13, Emma Lodestein 4-6 0-0 8, Alli Fey 0-1 0-0 0, Jessica Helton 2-16 4-7 8, Kati Cassabaum 1-2 5-8 7, Christine Ausman 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 18-52 10-22 53. 3-point field goals (7): Cl. Ausman 4, Pringnitz 3. Rebounds (30): Cassabaum 12. Assists (14): Pringnitz 6. Steals (10): Helton 4. Blocks (8): Cassabaum 6.
North Polk (56) – Macy Gill 5-18 2-5 12, Megan Murphy 5-10 0-1 12, Hannah Becker 1-4 2-4 4, Maddy Hill 0-1 0-0 0, Rachel Scott 0-0 0-0 0, Riley Murphy 0-0 0-0 0, Miranda Murphy 6-14 7-8 20, Rachel Zimmermann 2-8 4-8 8. Totals: 19-55 15-26 56. 3-point field goals (3): Me. Murphy 2, Mi. Murphy. Rebounds (43): Gill 11. Assists (2): Me. Murphy, Mi. Murphy. Steals (7): Gill 2, Mi. Murphy 2. Blocks (1): Zimmermann.
NEVADA – Hot outside shooting in the first half propelled Nevada to a 55-34 Heart of Iowa Conference victory over Collins-Maxwell-Baxter Dec. 10 at the Nevada High School Field House.
The Cubs canned seven 3-pointers in the first half, en route to building a 31-13 lead. Nevada hit three more trifectas in the third quarter – finishing 10 of 23 from 3-point range on the night – to help increase its lead to 27 points by the end of the quarter and put the game away.
"We love shooting the 3," Meyer said. "We’ve got some girls who have worked hard to become good shooters. When they fall life is good."
Megan Pringnitz and Alli Fey were the primary weapons from 3-point range for Nevada against CMB. Pringnitz made all five of her 3-pointers from behind the line in the first half and Fey ended up 4 of 7 from long range.
"It was easy when Megan knocked down her 3s right away so everyone was focusing on her," Fey said. "Then I got open a couple times and they didn’t know I was going to be able to shoot them. So that was fun."
Fey provided a huge spark off the bench, finishing with 15 points. The sophomore guard also came away with four steals on defense and she dished out five assists, helping senior Jessica Helton run the offense.
"I didn’t score much last year, but coach told me that this is going to be one of my good shooting years because no one knows me," Fey said. "Jess and I also work well together and I think Meyer likes that."
Pringnitz led Nevada with 17 points and she also had five rebounds, four assists and two steals. Kati Cassabaum had six points, five steals and one block; Claire Ausman scored five points and blocked one shot and Abby Stephenson came up with four points, three assists, two steals and one block.
Helton and Emma Lodestein also scored four points apiece. Helton added three assists and Lodestein came away with one assist and one steal.
Abbie Haupert and Bridget Hurley both posted a double-double for CMB in defeat. Haupert had 14 points and 11 rebounds and Hurley finished with 12 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Lexi Breon chipped in six points and five assists and Mackenzie Schmitz added two points, assists and steals apiece for the Raiders.
Nevada 55, CMB 34
CMB 6 7 8 13 – 34
N 17 14 17 7 – 55
CMB (34) – Madilyn Brindle 0-0 0-0 0, Mackenzie Schmitz 1-1 0-0 2, Sydney Ziesman 0-0 0-0 0, Megan Ritter 0-0 0-1 0, Bridget Hurley 3-6 5-5 12, Mikayla Eslinger 0-3 0-0 0, Abbie Haupert 4-8 6-7 14, Lexi Breon 2-8 2-2 6. Totals: 10-26 13-15 34. 3-point field goals (1): Hurley. Rebounds (34): Haupert 11. Assists (10): Breon 5. Steals (6): Schmitz 2, Hurley 2. Blocks: None.
Nevada (55) – Claire Ausman 2-6 0-1 5, Abby Stephenson 2-6 0-0 4, Megan Pringnitz 6-11 0-2 17, Emma Lodestein 1-1 2-2 4, Alli Fey 5-8 1-4 15, Jessica Helton 2-7 0-0 4, Kati Cassabaum 3-6 0-0 6, Amaris Hornbuckle 0-0 0-0 0, Christine Ausman 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 21-46 3-9 55. 3-point field goals (10): Pringnitz 5, Fey 4, Cl. Ausman. Rebounds (24): Pringnitz 5. Assists (17): Fey 5. Steals (15): Cassabaum 5. Blocks (3): Cl. Ausman, Stephenson, Cassabaum.