Inseparable: Ballard’s Fleischmann, Ihle complete long journey together with a state championship

Joe Randleman
Ames Tribune

Back in February of 2012, Ballard senior Josie Fleischmann, then in third grade, made a bold prediction. 

Her Ballard Storm girls’ youth basketball team had just won the Ballard Bombers Booster Tournament for the first time and was posing together for pictures.  

“I remember in a third-grade booster-club tournament saying we’re going to make this picture again in 10 years when we’re winning a state championship,” Fleischmann said. 

On Saturday those words proved prophetic. Fleischmann’s clutch 3-pointer with 36 seconds left gave Ballard an exhilarating 47-45 comeback win over No. 1 Glenwood in the Class 4A championship game of the girls’ state basketball tournament. 

“We were able to do that,” Fleischmann said. “With all of the time we’ve put in over the years, it’s pretty cool.” 

Best friends Josie Fleischmann and Molly Ihle share an emotional embrace following Ballard's 47-45 victory over Glenwood in the Class 4A championship game of the girls' state basketball tournament Saturday at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. The duo led the Bombers to their first state tile since 2009.

What a finish:Fleischmann’s dagger gives Ballard the 4A state title with 47-45 win over Glenwood

Another Bomber senior that had a huge impact in the 4A state championship game was also on that Storm team. Molly Ihle forced Glenwood’s Jenna Hopp to miss a shot in the final seconds and after the Rams misfired on a put-back attempt, Ihle got the rebound to help seal Ballard’s first state championship since 2009. 

“It all kind of flows together,” Ihle said. “It’s like one big whole full circle I guess. Josie’s scoring then I’ll get down on defense. We feed off each other.” 

Ihle and Fleischmann have been inseparable since grade school. They both have started all four years of high school at Ballard. 

“She’s my best friend forever and we’ve been playing basketball forever,” Fleischmann said. “It’s been quite the ride. This is a good way to go out together.” 

The duo took Ballard from 12-10 as freshmen to three-straight 20-win seasons and back-to-back state appearances, culminating with Saturday’s championship. 

“This doesn’t just happen by chance,” Ballard head coach Kelly Anderson said. “If we go back and counted all of the hours that they put in the gym by themselves — I can’t tell you how many shots that Josie has put up or that Molly has come in and put up. That’s what it takes to become a good basketball player. Those two have put in so much time that nobody deserves it more than them.”   

Josie Fleischmann led offensively 

Fleischmann led Ballard offensively in the tournament at 12 points per game. She scored 19 in Saturday’s final and hit one of the most iconic shots in state tournament history with her game-winning 3-pointer from 25 feet out while falling down with a defender in her face. 

“I knew it was going in,” Ihle said. “She’s that type of shooter and she’s shot that shot so many times. It’s just another day in the office. I’m so proud of her.” 

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Josie Fleischmann ended her career by hitting one of the most dramatic shots in Iowa girls' state basketball to give Ballard the 4A state championship.

Anderson considers the senior class of Fleischmann, Ihle, Cassidy Thompson, Ashley Wuestenberg and another former Ballard Storm player — Sydney Briggs — to be one of the most entertaining groups he’s ever been around. Fleischmann plays a big role in that. 

“Josie’s been something else,” Anderson said. “She’s always been our comic relief every day at practice because you never know what’s coming out of her mouth.” 

Molly Ihle named captain of the 4A all-tournament team

Ihle is Ballard’s heart and soul.  

Always cheerful and kind, Ihle lights up the room with her infectious smile and bubbly personality.  

“Molly is an amazing person and a great friend,” Waukee all-state guard Katie Dinnebier said. “Molly is always in the gym with a smiling face and a positive attitude.” 

Dinnebier led Waukee to the 5A state championship and was captain of the all-tournament team. The Drake signee and Ihle played ball together in the summer as members of All-Iowa Attack. 

“I loved playing with and against her at Attack,” Dinnebier said. “She works so hard on defense to fluster the offensive players and force turnovers.” 

Nobody does defense better than Ihle. As friendly as she is off the court, she is a bulldog when it comes game time. 

“Molly is a sweet person and a fierce competitor,” Gilbert guard and Drake verbal commit Ava Hawthorne said. “She is a strong, relentless defender.  I’ll miss playing against her as it was always a good challenge.” 

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That tenacious defense and constant motor, combined with strong ball-handling and skills and a high basketball IQ, make Ihle a unique player. She can impact a game without needing to score as well as anyone in the state. 

“There are so many things that go unnoticed,” Fleischmann said. “Nothing happens without Molly. She’s the gear that gets us going.” 

Molly Ihle was the engine that made it all go for the Ballard girls in their run to the Class 4A state championship. She was named captain of the 4A all-tournament team.

Previous coverage:Bombers will their way into 4A championship game; defense carries Ballard past DC-G in semifinals

Despite averaging just 7.7 points over Ballard’s three games at the state tournament, Ihle was named captain of the 4A all-tournament team. 

“What I’m really happy about is that the committee that choses the all-tournament team put her as the captain,” Anderson said. “There’s nobody more deserving than her. It’s incredible what she does. I think now everybody recognizes what a great player she is.” 

Ihle will continue her basketball career in college next year at Minnesota State University. Fleischmann will also play college ball at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, LA. 

They leave Ballard having led the program to the top of the mountain. 

“They’re both special in their own individual ways,” Ballard junior guard Brooke Loewe said. “I’m going to miss them so much next year. We wanted to go out with a bang for them. That’s what we did. State champions.”