DES MOINES – A near flawless performance in the second half lifted Ballard past Davenport Assumption in the Class 4A state quarterfinals at the girls’ basketball tournament March 5.
Behind the red-hot shooting of Meredith Ossian and an outstanding defensive effort Ballard dominated the second half en route to a 55-45 victory at Wells Fargo Arena.
The Bombers (21-4) went on a 20-6 run from the third quarter through the early stages of the fourth quarter to turn a five-point deficit into a 44-35 advantage. The Knights never got closer than six points the rest of the way as their three-year state championship run came to a close.
"Last year after we lost in the regional game I balled my eyes out then went over to the gym every day," Ballard forward Emily Knittel said. "I was just angry. But now I’m just ecstatic."
Ossian was the hero for Ballard in the third quarter.
Assumption had focused the bulk of their defensive attention on versatile Bomber star Gabie Doud. The Knights also started to worry about Knittel after she scored 15 of Ballard’s first 28 points.
That opened things up for Ossian on the perimeter and she took full advantage by scoring 12 of her 19 points in the quarter.
With Ballard down 32-28 Ossian scored inside and hit two free throws to pull her team within one. Jenna Moody canned two free throws to give Ballard its first lead of the second half at 34-33 and the Ossian really got going.
She drained a 3-pointer off a feed from Doud with 59 seconds left then beat Assumption down the court for a layup. In Ballard’s final possession of the third quarter Ossian got open on the perimeter and canned her third 3-pointer of the game just before the buzzer to put Ballard up seven.
"I was feeling it tonight," Ossian said. "They doubled (Gabie) because they know she’s a force inside and the 3-point line was open. Whatever they gave me I took and the shots felt good."
Ossian’s fourth and final 3-pointer gave Ballard a 49-38 lead with 5:12 to go in the fourth quarter. Assumption closed within 51-45 on an Alyssa Sikkema basket with two minutes left, but that’s as close as the Knights could get as Ballard pitched a shutout the rest of the way.
"We played together much better and more mentally tough in the second half," Ballard head coach Kelly Anderson said. "We played a decent first half, but we gave up too many offensive rebounds. We really hit on that at halftime and didn’t give those up in the second half. Then Meredith got hot and we started getting the ball inside."
Ballard ended up shooting at an outstanding 60-percent clip from the field (18 of 30). The Bombers were 5 of 9 from point range as a team – with Ossian going 4 of 5 – and they were strong at the line in making 14 of 18 free throws.
After getting outrebounded 13-9 in the first half Ballard evened things up at 29-29 by the end of the game. The Bombers had 24 turnovers, but they limited the Knights to 28-percent shooting (17 of 61) and just six free-throw attempts.
Doud was held to six points after entering the game averaging 17.8. But along with Ossian’s big night Knittel hit 7 of 13 field goals and 7 of 9 free throws to put up a game-high 21 points for the Bombers and Moody provided a big spark off the bench by making all three of her field-goal attempts and scoring nine points.
"That’s the good part about having such a well-rounded team," Doud said. "The whole team can score and we all have our strengths."
Doud also had eight rebounds, three assists, three steals and one block on the day. Knittel finished with five rebounds and one assist, Ossian had three rebounds and two assists and Moody chipped in six rebounds.
Abby McGee, Charcey Petersen and Alanna Dubberke all failed to score, but they were important cogs defensively for the Bombers. McGee provided lockdown defense on the perimeter, Petersen came up with three steals and Dubberke had two blocks.
"You never know who is going to do what for you," Anderson said. "We’ve had kids do it all year. That’s the thing that’s made us what we are – we always get somebody that’s going to step up and it’s not always the same person. That’s what makes good teams."
The victory put Ballard in the state semifinals for the eighth time in nine years.
"It doesn’t’ get easier," Anderson said. "I kind of predicted coming down here that it will be wide open. There are a lot of good teams and it’s just a matter of who plays well that day because everybody’s good at this point and time. We’ll have a tough one Thursday night, but I’m sure we’ll be ready."
Assumption finished its season at 17-7. Makinze Roman had eight points and seven rebounds, Belle Thrapp netted eight points and Maddie Irmen put up seven points and two assists for the Knights in a losing effort.
Ballard 55, Davenport Assumption 45
B 16 6 20 13 – 55
DA 11 16 8 10 – 45
Ballard (55) – Gabie Doud 2-4 2-2 6, Abby McGee 0-0 0-0 0, Emily Knittel 7-13 7-9 21, Alanna Dubberke 0-1 0-0 0, Charcey Petersen 0-0 0-0 0, Jenna Moody 3-3 2-3 9, Meredith Ossian 6-7 3-4 19, Taylor Larson 0-1 0-0 0, Sheridan Gealow 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 18-30 14-18 55. 3-point field goals (5): Ossian 4, Moody. Rebounds (29): Doud 8. Assists (10): Doud 3. Steals (11): Doud 3, Petersen 3. Blocks (4): Dubberke 2.
Davenport Assumption (45) – Riley Behan 2-9 0-0 6, Alyssa Sikkema 2-7 0-0 4, Belle Thrapp 2-7 4-4 8, Maddie Irmen 3-11 0-0 7, Jamie White 1-6 2-2 4, Christine Rohlf 2-6 0-0 6, Jasmine Harris 0-1 0-0 0, Kennedy King 0-3 0-0 0, Sarah Matson 1-5 0-0 2, Makinze Roman 4-6 0-0 8. Totals: 17-61 6-6 45. 3-point field goals (5): Behan 2, Rohlf 2, Irmen. Rebounds (29): Sikkema 9. Assists (9): Behan 2, Irmen 2. Steals (9): Sikkema 3. Blocks (1): Roman.