Young Bomber girls go through valuable learning experience

Joe Randleman Staff Writer
Tara Sanders was Ballard’s top 3-point threat and a valuable all-around contributor at guard, helping the Bomber girls take second in the Raccoon River Conference and go 12-10 overall in 2017-18.

The Ballard girls’ basketball program may have missed out on state for the second season in a row, but the Bombers showed signs of a bright future in 2017-18.

Ballard was without its top seven scorers from last season when they finished 16-6 and reached the Class 4A regional finals. As a result, the Bombers went through their share of rough patches in 2017-18.

But the Bombers managed to finish the regular season strong before bowing out to Webster City in the 4A regional quarterfinals. Ballard finished the season at 12-10 overall and placed second to state qualifier Boone in the Raccoon River Conference with an 11-3 mark.

“It was disappointing as far as the record (goes), but very rewarding as far as working with the girls,” Ballard head girls’ basketball coach Kelly Anderson said. “Great kids to work with and (they) improved greatly from start to finish.”

The Bombers started off winning just one of their first five games. The Bombers fell to Gilbert (54-48) and Norwalk (37-35), defeated Adel-Desoto-Minburn (47-28) and lost to Pella (62-47) and Boone (51-31).

In its final stretch before Christmas, Ballard upset a then-ranked Dallas Center-Grimes team, 52-47, knocked off Bondurant-Farrar by a decisive 48-17 margin, fell to top-10 3A power Nevada, 34-31, and handled Carlisle, 52-43.

On Jan. 5, Ballard won at Perry, 38-24, but the Bombers fell to eventual 5A state qualifier Cedar Falls the following day, 61-32. Ballard cruised past Carroll (55-37) and Winterset (52-28) in its next two games and then hit its roughest stretch of the season.

From Jan. 16-23, the Bombers lost at home to Harlan (48-39), at ADM (39-37) and back at home to Boone (49-21).

Ballard turned things around the following week and closed out the regular season with five consecutive victories to wrap up second place in the conference. The Bombers defeated Bondurant-Farrar (44-23), won a thriller at Carlisle (55-51), trounced Perry (55-25), hammered Carroll (46-29) and knocked off Winterset (40-32).

The momentum didn’t carry over into 4A regionals. The Bombers lost a tight 47-45 affair at Webster City in the regional quarterfinals to end the season.

“(I) enjoyed the leadership and attitude of all the players,” Anderson said. “(They) always came to practice with a smile and great attitude.”

The Bomber coach said his team overcame its inexperience to produce some big accomplishments.

“(We got) a big win against DCG, who was ranked (and) finished second in their conference,” Anderson said. “Our young kids grew. Several got a lot of playing time.”

For the season, Ballard averaged 43.2 points, shooting 37.8 percent and 57 percent from the line. The Bombers nailed 28.1 percent of their 3-pointers — totaling 97 on the season — and they averaged 12.2 assists and 17.3 turnovers.

Defensively, Ballard gave up 39.4 points per game. Opposing teams shot 35 percent from the field and 28 percent from 3-point range, and the Bombers forced 18.8 turnovers per game.

Ballard also outrebounded teams by a 27.4-26.3 margin.

Freshman Molly Ihle and Josie Fleischmann were the top all-around players for Ballard. Ihle made the all-RRC first team and Fleischmann the second team.

Ihle averaged 6.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists, shot 32.4 percent from the field and made 10 3-pointers on offense. She was also a disruptive force on defense, averaging 4.2 steals per game.

Fleischmann led Ballard in scoring with 8.0 points per game and she shot 45.7 percent from the field and made 19 3-pointers at a 34.5-percent rate. Fleischmann also averaged 2.6 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.2 steals.

Senior post Ana Vier, senior guard Tara Sanders and sophomore forward Maggie Larson all made all-RRC honorable mention for Ballard.

Vier delivered 6.9 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.9 steals and she led Ballard in blocks with 18. Vier also shot 44.1 percent from the field.

Sanders tallied 6.6 points, 2.0 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.2 steals per game. She led Ballard with 34 3-pointers, shooting 33.7 percent from long range, and she made 37.4 percent of her field goals and shot 68.4 percent from the line.

Larson averaged 6.6 points shooting 32.9 percent from the field and drilled 16 3-pointers. She also produced 4.0 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.2 steals per contest.

Seniors Charity Ransom, Abby Catus, Sydni Thrailkill and Summer McVicker; junior Karlee Ahrenholtz and sophomore Rachel Wohlgemuth all played in double-figure games for Ballard.

Ransom averaged 2.2 points and 1.6 rebounds, Catus 1.7 points and 1.3 rebounds in 12 games after bouncing back from a broken finger, Thrailkill 3.4 points and 1.7 rebounds and McVicker 1.0 points and 1.1 rebounds.

“The senior class was not the most talented skill group as a whole, but might have been the most enjoyable,” Anderson said. “Great leaders and great kids.”

Ahrenholtz produced 1.2 points per game and Wohlgemuth totaled six points and seven rebounds in 13 games.

Next season, Ballard will strive for another conference championship and a deeper postseason run behind the return of three all-conference performers.

“Future looks bright!” Anderson said. “Freshman team and JV had great seasons and (we) had several young kids get a lot of playing time at varsity level.”