ANKENY – It came down to one play in the Class 3A regional final girls’ basketball game between No. 9 Nevada and No. 8 Bondurant-Farrar Saturday in Ankeny.
After a Kati Cassabaum basket tied the game for Nevada at 45-45, Bondurant-Farrar called timeout with 49 seconds left. The Bluejays worked the clock down – patiently waiting for a good look in the final seconds.
Thanks to great defense from Nevada, the Bluejays struggled to find an open look, and with just a few ticks left on the clock, Bluejay leading scorer forced up a 3-pointer from the wing. The shot went long and clanged off the far side of the rim.
Unfortunately for Nevada, Bondurant-Farrar’s Lexi Atzen was right in position to rebound the ball and put up an uncontested shot. Atzen’s shot went off the backboard and through the net just as time expired to advance the Bluejays to state and hand the Cubs a gut-wrenching 47-45 loss.
"It kind of sucks right now," Nevada senior forward Megan Pringnitz said. "I didn’t think it was going to be over tonight. But we gave them a run for their money. I don’t think they were expecting what we brought."
Bondurant-Farrar entered the game red hot. The Bluejays had defeated rated 4A powers Ballard and Perry in two of their final three regular season games and in regional play, they smoked West Central Valley and Prairie City-Monroe by 36 and 23 points respectively.
The Bluejays had also defeated Nevada, 44-33, in a regular-season matchup between the two teams Feb. 1 in Bondurant.
But Nevada had a great game plan Saturday.
The Cubs slowed down Burrows – holding her to just four points. They also limited outside shooting ace Madi Atzen to just two 3-pointers.
On offense Nevada executed its game plan to near perfection.
The Cubs frequently got the ball inside to athletic and versatile 6-0 center Kati Cassabaum, who burned the shorter Bluejay post players for a game-high 19 points on 8 of 9 shooting from the field.
"We knew they’d have trouble guarding Kati with her height advantage," Nevada head coach Kristin Meyer said. "We did a nice job of getting her the ball and she did a great job of finishing strong to the rim every time."
They also received a huge boost off the bench from freshman Claire Ausman.
After Nevada struggled early, falling behind 11-5, Ausman keyed a 14-3 Cub run with three big 3-pointers to turn the tide. Ausman finished with four 3-pointers and 12 points.
"Claire played great tonight," Meyer said. "Some of our other shooters weren’t on tonight so it was fantastic to see her step up and knock down a few."
On the flipside Bondurant-Farrar received a great game from top post player Keely Bycroft as she used her quickness off the dribble and good mid-range shooting game to lead the Bluejays with 16 points. Bondurant-Farrar also held Helton – coming off back-to-back 21-point games and the leading Cub scorer on the season – without a point.
The end result was a tense back-and-forth ballgame. It was a 25-23 game at the half, and neither team led by more than three points in the second half.
"It’s too bad the game ended like that because we played a great game," Meyer said. "Both teams just fought hard every possession. We did so many good things. This is a tough way to lose and end the season."
Nevada finished with a 19-5 record.
Though the loss was definitely hard to swallow, the Cubs proved they had taken a big step forward as a program after getting clobbered by eventual 3A state runner-up Estherville-Lincoln Central (62-31) in last year’s regional finals. Nevada also won the Heart of Iowa Conference this season to claim its first conference championship since 1988.
"When we came in as freshmen, we were not very good," Pringnitz said. "To grow this much and make it to the (regional) finals two years in a row is a great feeling. It kind of sucks we couldn’t get over that hump, but we’ve got the program going in the right direction, so hopefully this starts a tradition."
Pringnitz finished with six points, eight rebounds, two assists, two steals and one block. Alli Fey netted five points before fouling out, Emma Lodestein had three points and four assists, Helton finished with four assists and Cassabaum added seven rebounds and one block to go along with her scoring.
Bondurant-Farrar will take a 19-5 record into the state tournament. Madi Atzen complemented Bycroft with 12 points; Lexi ended up with nine points, nine rebounds, four steals and three assists and Emily Wilson chipped in four points, two assists and two steals for the Bluejays.
Bondurant-Farrar 47, Nevada 45
B-F 11 12 12 12 – 47
N 10 15 11 9 – 45
Bondurant-Farrar (47) – Lexi Atzen 4-5 1-2 9, Emily Wilson 0-6 4-4 4, Madi Atzen 4-7 2-2 12, Ashley Burrows 2-7 0-1 4, Amy Stock 1-5 0-0 2, Keely Bycroft 6-8 4-4 16, Emma Gaber 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 17-38 11-13 47. 3-point field goals (2): M. Atzen 2. Rebounds (19): L. Atzen 9. Assists (8): L. Atzen 3. Steals (8): L. Atzen 4. Blocks: None.
Nevada (45) – Abby Stephenson 0-1 0-2 0, Claire Ausman 4-7 0-0 12, Megan Pringnitz 2-6 0-0 6, Emma Lodestein 1-1 1-2 3, Alli Fey 2-6 0-0 5, Jessica Helton 0-2 0-0 0, Kati Cassabaum 8-9 3-4 19. Totals: 17-32 4-8 45. 3-point field goals (7): Ausman 4, Pringnitz 2, Fey. Rebounds (22): Pringnitz 8. Assists (16): Lodestein 4, Helton 4. Steals (8): Stephenson 2, Pringnitz 2, Fey 2. Blocks (2): Pringnitz, Cassabaum.
NEVADA – The late heroics of Jessica Helton and a timely defensive play helped Nevada survive a major scare from Kuemper Catholic in Class 3A regional semifinal play Feb. 19 at the Nevada High School Field House.
Helton came up with 10 huge points in the fourth quarter – her final point being the game-winning free throw with six tenths of a second on the clock - to give Nevada a hard-fought 39-38 victory.
Nevada trailed 32-27 going into the fourth quarter. After a good start the Cubs were unable to solve Kuemper Catholic’s zone defense in the second and third quarters – only scoring 14 points over the two periods.
But in the fourth period Helton came to the rescue. She hit three 3-pointers over the final 6:30 of regulation, the third tying the game at 38-38 with 13 seconds left.
Then another Cub senior – Megan Pringnitz – came through with a huge defensive play. Kuemper Catholic bobbled a pass and Pringnitz stepped in for a clutch steal.
Nevada head coach Kristin Meyer called timeout with six seconds left. When play resumed, the Cubs got the ball to Helton; she drove the length of the court and drew a foul in the act of shooting with less than a second remaining.
After a Kuemper Catholic timeout, Helton missed her first free throw. But with everything on the line she was money – nailing the second free throw to give Nevada the lead.
Kuemper Catholic’s desperation three-quarter court shot was off the mark as the final buzzer sounded and Nevada had survived to advance to the regional finals for the second year in a row.
"Jess was our hero tonight," Meyer said. "Her 3-pointer to tie the game was huge and her drive to get fouled and ability to make the free throw to go up were clutch. She earned the right to save the day for us by all the work she’s put in over the past few years."
Nevada started out the game in good shape. The Cubs hit three 3-pointers in the first quarter and led 13-6 going into the second.
But then Kuemper Catholic’s zone started to force the Cubs out of rhythm as they were unable to get the ball inside to center Kati Cassabaum or hit their outside shots – finishing 9 of 35 from 3-point range.
"Kuemper did a great job of not allowing penetration or passes to Kati," Meyer said. "We’ve shot a lot of 3s all year and we took what they gave us. We didn’t have our best shooting night, but it was good enough."
Nevada shot just 13 of 47 overall from the field. The Cubs were outrebounded, 34-29, and they only attempted seven free throws as a team.
The Cubs held Kuemper Catholic to 16 of 45 shooting and just five trips to the line. Nevada also came up with seven steals and five blocks on defense.
Helton ended up with 21 points – giving her two 21-point games in as many postseason outings. Pringnitz added 11 points, five rebounds, five assists, two steals and one block.
Cassabaum was limited to four points, but she pulled down a game-high 14 rebounds and blocked four shots. Ally Fey chipped in three points, three assists and two steals for the Cubs.
Maria and Hannah Dentlinger, and Kierstyn Bauer paced Kuemper Catholic.
Maria finished with 11 points, eight rebounds and one block; Hannah had six points, nine rebounds, two steals and one assist and Bauer put up 10 points, four steals and one block. The Knights finished the season with a 14-9 record.
Nevada 39, Kuemper Catholic 38
KC 6 12 14 6 – 38
N 13 5 9 12 – 39
Kuemper Catholic (38) – Kierstyn Bauer 4-12 0-0 10, Hannah Dentlinger 2-6 0-2 6, Claire Ludwig 3-8 1-2 7, Paige Overmohle 2-5 0-0 4, Katie Tigges 0-1 0-0 0, Kendra Peter 0-0 0-0 0, Abby Derner 0-0 0-0 0, Maria Dentlinger 5-13 1-1 11. Totals: 16-45 2-5 38. 3-point field goals (4): Bauer 2, H. Dentlinger 2. Rebounds (34): H. Dentlinger 9. Assists (6): Ludwig 2, Overmohle 2. Steals (8): Bauer 4. Blocks (2): Bauer, M. Dentlinger.
Nevada (39) – Abby Stephenson 0-1 0-0 0, Claire Ausman 0-2 0-0 0, Megan Pringnitz 3-13 3-3 11, Emma Lodestein 0-1 0-0 0, Alli Fey 1-7 0-0 3, Jessica Helton 7-18 1-2 21, Kati Cassabaum 2-5 0-2 4, Christine Ausman 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 13-47 4-7 39. 3-point field goals (9): Helton 6, Pringnitz 2, Fey. Rebounds (29): Cassabaum 14. Assists (11): Pringnitz 5. Steals (7): Pringnitz 2, Lodestein 2, Fey 2. Blocks (5): Cassabaum 4.