HUXLEY – Slowly, but surely the Ballard girls’ basketball team found a way to get the job done against Dallas Center-Grimes in a battle between two top-10 former conference rivals Dec. 17 in Huxley.
After trailing for the entire game, the Bombers – then-rated sixth in Class 4A – ended the game on an 8-2 run to pull off a 52-50 victory over the No. 8 Fillies.
The win was Ballard’s third in a row over a ranked team and it put the Bombers at 7-1 overall. DCG – which is now in the Little Hawkeye Conference after competing against Ballard in the Raccoon River Conference for several years – dropped to 4-2 on the young season.
"We haven’t been in this position before where it’s been close down to the end," Ballard head coach Kelly Anderson said. "We needed to have a game like this where we had to come back. At halftime we talked about playing as a team and trusting each other and we got that done in the second half."
DCG jumped out to a 7-0 lead to start the game and the Fillies did a good job maintaining that edge for 3 ½ quarters. DCG led by eight at the half and never let Ballard get closer than four points in the third quarter.
The Fillies led 44-37 to start the fourth quarter, but Ballard closed within 46-44 after Kenzie Ihle hit a 3-pointer, Gabie Doud scored a basket and Emily Knittel converted a bucket off a feed from Ihle. A putback from Paige Lowary gave DCG a four-point lead, but Ihle hit 1 of 2 free throws and Doud scored off a pass from Knittel to get Ballard within one with three minutes, 36 seconds left.
After a crucial defensive stand, Ballard was able to work a good look for Doud as Meredith Ossian found her for a basket inside with 2:17 to go. That gave Ballard its first lead of the game at 49-48.
Ballard followed with more good defense, and then after a turnover, the Bombers made another stop to maintain their slim advantage. When they got the ball back, Doud was fouled with 1:04 remaining and she hit the front end of a one-and-one to increase her team’s lead to two points.
DCG had an answer as top Filly scorer Dani Heritage converted a basket off a drive with 39.5 seconds on the clock to knot the score at 50-50.
With the game on the line, Ballard worked some time off the clock on its next possession before getting Knittel the ball. Knittel had been the go-to player on offense all game for the Bombers, and the fate of her team was fittingly put on her shoulders in the final seconds.
Knittel was fouled with 21.8 seconds left and sent to the line for a one-and-one. She showed great focus and composure by sinking the front end and then converting the bonus shot to put the Bombers back up by two.
"I practice free throws every day seventh hour during school," Knittel said. "I’ve always had this picture in my mind – what if I have to shoot a one-and-one in a situation like that? This is the first time I’ve ever had to do that and I made them."
But DCG still had a chance to tie or go in front in the final seconds. The Fillies worked the clock down until the final seconds and then Jackie O’Brien drove to the basket, but was off the mark.
The ball went out of bounds and was last touched by a Ballard player with 1.1 seconds remaining. That left DCG a chance to get one last look, but Bomber defensive ace Abby McGee made sure it wasn’t a good one.
DCG tried to get the ball directly to Heritage off the inbounds, but McGee deflected the pass away from Heritage and out of bounds at the last second.
"I felt like they would go to her because she was scoring a lot for them, so I kept an eye on her," McGee said. "But everyone else was in the right spot, too. I felt we kind of did it together."
That left just three-tenths of a second on the clock, meaning DCG could not catch and shoot off the inbounds. The Fillies’ desperation tip at the end was well off the mark.
"It feels great," McGee said. "DCG is a really big rival and I’ve never beaten DCG since I’ve been on varsity. It’s good to end up beating them."
With DCG focusing the bulk of its attention on Doud – Ballard’s most versatile player – Knittel took advantage to score a season-high 21 points. Knittel used a nice combination of power and quickness to hit 8 of 12 field goals and she also ended up 5 of 6 from the line.
"I’m really competitive and DCG is such a good team," Knittel said. "My teammates are also really good about knowing each other’s strengths, so they had a lot of really nice passes and helped get me open."
Doud struggled early, but she came on big in the fourth quarter. Doud hit three of her four field goals and scored nine of her 13 points over the final eight minutes; she finished the game with eight rebounds, two assists and one block.
Ihle also came up big in crunch time.
Ihle scored all 10 of her points in the second half. She finished 3 of 6 from 3-point range and ended up with three assists.
Ossian and Charcey Petersen both scored four points and handed out three assists. McGee didn’t score, but she had four rebounds, one assist and one steal.
Heritage wound up with 20 points after making 9 of 17 field goals to lead DCG. She also had five rebounds, four assists and one steal.
Lexi Rosa tacked on nine points and six rebounds and Selena Nolte netted eight points for the Fillies.
Ballard 52, DCG 50
DCG 13 10 21 6 – 50
B 8 7 22 15 – 52
DCG (50) – Allison O’Brien 1-2 0-0 2, Jackie Peyton 1-4 0-0 2, Dani Dunphy 1-2 0-0 2, Brooke Kramer 0-2 0-0 0, Maci Masching 1-2 0-0 2, Paige Lowary 1-5 0-2 2, Rachel Lowary 1-5 1-2 3, Dani Heritage 9-17 1-2 20, Lexi Rosa 4-7 1-2 9, Selena Nolte 3-4 2-2 8. Totals: 22-50 5-10 50. 3-point field goals (1): Heritage. Rebounds (28): Rosa 6. Assists (11): Heritage 4. Steals (6): Dunphy 2, R. Lowary 2. Blocks (2): Masching, Nolte.
Ballard (52) – Charcey Petersen 2-3 0-0 4, Jenna Moody 0-2 0-0 0, Gabie Doud 4-9 5-9 13, Abby McGee 0-1 0-0 0, Emily Knittel 8-12 5-6 21, Kenzie Ihle 3-6 1-2 10, Meredith Ossian 1-3 1-2 4, Alanna Dubberke 0-1 0-0 0, Hannah Jensen 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 18-37 12-19 52. 3-point field goals (4): Ihle 3, Ossian. Rebounds (23): Doud 8. Assists (15): Petersen 3, Ihle 3, Ossian 3. Steals (3): Moody, McGee, Ihle. Blocks (2): Doud, Ossian.