By BURDELL HENSLEY
The Oskaloosa Herald
NEW SHARON —
Two conference champions got together in the regional quarterfinals and it was the type of game that basketball fans expect to see.
The South Central Conference champion Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont Rockets were hosted by the South Iowa Cedar League winners, the North Mahaska Warhawks, and it was a battle.
About three weeks ago, the Warhawks visited Rocketland and put a 70-37 knot on the noggin of the Rockets.
This time, the feeling was in the air that things might be a whole lot different, and indeed it was.
The Rockets hung tough for the first half and went into intermission trailing by only one at 27-26. In the second half, a slight adjustment in the offensive set and a defensive adjustment allowed the Warhawks to pull away for a 58-49 win.
“They were controlling us in the lane,” North Mahaska coach L.E. Moore said. “We went to a high post set and that gave us some better looks and opened things up for cuts through the middle. Defensively we were not handling them on the low block. We got a handle on that in the second half and cut down the good looks they got in the lane.”
The first time the two teams met the Warhawks rained 11 3s on the Rockets, but this time, Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont did a better job on the perimeter. North Mahaska had only six 3s while the Rockets nailed eight shots from behind the arc.
But probably no three was bigger than the one Makayla Ihde drained from the top of the arc with 2:04 left in the game. The Warhawks were clinging to a 48-43 lead and Ihde had a wide open look. It was one of those shots where coaches will say, “No, no, no, no, Alright! Great shot!
“It was a big shot,” Moore said. “She has been shooting well and she has confidence in her shot. I have no reservations about her shooting the ball.”
That shot put the Warhawks up by eight with two minutes to go and it was time to shoot free throws. The Rockets had no choice but to foul and North Mahaska made 7-of-11 down the stretch to put the game away.
North Mahaska had taken a 13-8 lead with 30 seconds left in the first period on the strength of threes by Ihde and Abbie Agan, an inside three point play by Mallory Boyle and inside buckets by Sarah Bowen and Boyle. In the final 30 seconds, the Rockets used a three by Tasha Alexander and a perimeter shot by MaKenzie Jensen to tie the score at 13-13 going into the second stanza.
In that second eight minutes, the Warhawks used consecutive threes by Julia Groenenboom, Agan and Ihde to take a 22-15 lead and appeared on the brink of breaking the game open. But in the final two and one half minutes of the half the Warhawks went stone cold and the Rockets hit an 8-0 run led by Jensen and Alexander. Things were just a little tense going into halftime.
In the third period, Michaela Heys and Bowen came off the bench to give the Warahwks a spark on the inside. Boyle added three inside buckets and Ihde and Hayley LaRue added perimeter shots. The Rockets tried to counter with a pair of threes by Alexander, but not much else was going down.
“Our bench came up big for us tonight, especially Heys and Bowen,” Moore added. “Also our seniors stepped up with some big free throws at the end.”
Rockets coach Tony Fenton found the difference in the game at the free throw line.
“We were even on field goals,” Fenton said. “They were 14-of-25 from the line and we were 3-of-6. That is the difference. I thought we did a much better job than the first time, but we had some cold spells and forced some shots. We used a 3-2 zone to try and stop their outside game, but their high post set hurt us in the second half. We really stressed rebounding and we did a great job there.”
Boyle led the Warhawks with 19 points, seven rebounds and six steals, while Ihde put down 11 points. Makenzie Jensen led the Rockets with 16 points and 13 rebounds while Alexander chipped in with 11 points and nine rebounds.
The 20-1 Warhawks host Pella Christian Friday night in a Class 2A regional semifinal. Again, it will be two conference champions meeting as the Eagles ruled the Little Hawkeye Conference. The Rockets close out at 15-8 and have the South Central Conference title in their possession.
North Mahaska 58,
EBF 13 13 11 12 — 49
NM 13 14 17 14 — 58
EDDYVILLE-BLAKESBURG-FREMONT (49) — Emma Tanner 0 1-2 1, Jarrah Jensen 2 0-0 5, Makenzie Jensen 8 0-0 16, Shelby Allgood 2 0-0 6, Tasha Alexander 3 2-2 11, Paige Reck 1 0-0 2, Shunyl Busch 2 0-0 6. Totals 19 3-6 49.
3-point goals — 8 (Alexander 3, Allgood 2, Busch 2, J. Jensen 1). Rebounds — 38 (Karlie Taylor 8, J. Jensen 4, M. Jensen 13, Allgood 2, Alexander 9, Busch 2). Steals — 7 (J. Jensen 3, Alexander 2, Busch 2). Assists — 16 (Taylor 3, J. Jensen 2, M. Jensen 2, Algood 2, Alexander 7). Total fouls — 21.
NORTH MAHASKA (58)— Makalya Ihde 4 0-0 11, Abbie Agan 2 3-5 9, Michaela Heys 2 4-5 8, Mallory Boyle 7 5-9 19, Hayley LaRue 1 0-0 2, Sarah Bowen 1 2-6 4, Julia Groenenboom 2 0-0 5. Totals 19 14-25 58.
3-point goals — 6 (Ihde 3, Agan 2, Groenenboom 1). Rebounds — 32 (Ihde 4, Agan 6, Heys 2, Boyle 7, LaRue 4, Bowen 1, Groenenboom 8). Steals — 14 (Agan 4, Heys 1, Boyle 6, Groenenboom 3). Assists — 12 (Ihde 3, Agan 3, Boyle 2, Groenenboom 4). Total fouls — 8.