DES MOINES – It was tough sledding for Ballard against Western Dubuque in the Class 4A semifinals at the girls’ state basketball tournament March 6 at Wells Fargo Arena.
The Bombers sputtered offensively for nearly the entire game, making only 9 of 36 field goals, suffering a 30-23 loss.
The No. 7 Bombers clearly didn’t resemble the team that pulled off a 55-45 upset win over No. 3 Davenport Assumption in the quarterfinals the previous day. Ballard never led versus Western Dubuque and the Bombers failed to score more than seven points in a single quarter.
"We just could not get in sync," Ballard head coach Kelly Anderson said. "We couldn’t find five girls that could work together very well and we forced some things. They also blocked a couple of shots and we backed off a bit and weren’t as aggressive as we were the day before."
A four-minute stretch, from the middle of the third quarter through the first minutes of the final period, produced Ballard’s only quality spurt on offense all game.
Ballard trailed 22-12 with just over four minutes left in the third. Gabie Doud scored inside to pull the Bombers within eight with 4:01 left, then she hit a jumper with 1:23 remaining to pull the Bombers within 22-16 by the end of the quarter.
Another Doud basket closed Ballard to within four early in the fourth quarter. Bomber center Alanna Dubberke then made the Bobcats pay for continuously leaving her alone when she came out to the high post as she stepped up to hit a 17-foot jumper with 6:26 left to pull her team within two.
Western Dubuque coach Amy Ostwinkle called timeout eight seconds after Dubberke’s jumper. Megan Maahs hit 1 of 2 free throws following the timeout to put Western Dubuque up by three, but with 4:49 to go in the fourth Meredith Ossian – a hero in the win over Assumption – stepped out and nailed a huge 3-pointer from the corner to tie the game at 23-23.
"We finally did get something going in the fourth quarter," Anderson said. "We got it tied up and we’re looking like OK, we finally got there."
But it was there Ballard’s run came to an end.
Rose Simon-Ressler hit a mid-range jumper and Morgan Pitz hit a pair of free throws to push Western Dubuque up by a 27-23 score with 3:50 left. Pitz hit 1 of 2 foul shots a little over a minute later to push the Bobcat lead to five.
Ballard still had some good opportunities to pull closer in the final minutes.
With 1:36 left Bomber guard Jenna Moody had a 3-pointer go in and out and 24 seconds later Ossian was long on a 3-pointer. Emily Knittel and Doud both missed on drives to the hoop with around one minute to go and Dubberke was just off on a 3-point attempt in the final seconds.
All the missed chances caught up to Ballard with 14 seconds left as Western Dubuque’s Mikaela Armstrong iced the game with a pair of free throws.
"They did a great job of scouting us, taking away our strengths and making us play to our weaknesses," Doud said. "We just didn’t have anyone step up tonight and I’m (partly) to blame for that.
Western Dubuque did a tremendous job shutting down the driving and passing lanes for Doud and Knittel – the two leading Bomber scorers – and covering up Ossian on the perimeter. The presence of Maahs – a 6-foot shot blocker – on the inside also made life tough for Ballard on offense.
"They were a pretty quick team," Ballard senior guard Abby McGee said. "They were always around the ball a lot and they played really hard."
In addition to holding Ballard to a poor shooting night, Western Dubuque dominated the boards by a 32-17 margin.
But Ballard did its job defensively as well. The Bombers forced 17 turnovers and held the Bobcats without a 3-pointer.
"Our defense was crazy," Doud said. "It was such a low-scoring game and that means both defenses were really great."
Doud led Ballard with 11 points and she also had three rebounds and five steals. Ossian finished with five points, one block and one assist; Dubberke had four points, six rebounds and four steals and Knittel scored three points.
Simon-Ressler paced Western Dubuque with a game-high 15 points. Maahs had nine points, 12 rebounds, five blocks and three steals; Pitz netted three points and Armstrong finished with two points and two assists for the Bobcats.
Ballard finished the season with a 21-5 record. The Bombers must say good bye to a talented senior class (McGee, Dubberke, Kenzie Ihle, Charcey Petersen and Sheridan Gealow) that did all the little things to make the team one of the best in 4A.
"We may have had other people score and do those type of things, but we’re here because of the seniors," Anderson said. "When they were freshman and I was an assistant, I latched onto that whole group. I had them running some things maybe our varsity wasn’t running at the time because they were so good in the full-court press and playing defensively. They’re the driving force and the reason why we’re here – all five of them."
But with leading scorers Doud and Knittel returning, along with Ossian and some other key players, the Bombers definitely have their sights set on making it back to Des Moines in 2015.
"We’re going to miss our seniors like crazy, but we’re definitely going to come out next year with a vengeance," Doud said. "We know we can do the same thing again."
Western Dubuque ended up losing the 4A championship game to Harlan, 55-51, to finish its season with a 23-3 record.
Western Dubuque 30, Ballard 23
WD 6 12 4 8 – 30
B 4 7 5 7 – 23
Western Dubuque (30) – Mikaela Armstrong 0-2 2-3 2, Molly Lembezeder 0-1 0-0 0, Zoey Weber 0-3 1-4 1, Rose Simon-Ressler 6-9 3-3 15, Megan Maahs 3-7 3-5 9, Jenny Brehm 0-1 0-0 0, Maddy Clark 0-0 0-0 0, Morgan Pitz 0-0 3-4 3, Jessica Cartee 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 9-24 12-19 30. 3-point field goals: None. Rebounds (32): Maahs 12. Assists (5): Armstrong 2, Brehm 2. Steals (7): Maahs 3. Blocks (7): Maahs 5.
Ballard (23) – Gabie Doud 5-11 0-4 11, Abby McGee 0-1 0-0 0, Emily Knittel 1-6 1-2 3, Kenzie Ihle 0-4 0-0 0, Alanna Dubberke 2-7 0-0 4, Charcey Petersen 0-0 0-0 0, Jenna Moody 0-2 0-0 0, Meredith Ossian 1-5 2-2 5, Taylor Larson 0-0 0-0 0, Sheridan Gealow 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 9-36 3-8 23. 3-point field goals (2): Doud, Ossian. Rebounds (17): Dubberke 6. Assists (4): McGee, Ihle, Dubberke, Ossian. Steals (11): Doud 5. Blocks (1): Ossian.