Late surge lifts No. 2 Ballard past North Polk: Loewe sparks 49-30 Bomber victory
HUXLEY – Midway through the third quarter of its game against North Polk Jan. 5 the second-ranked (Class 4A) Ballard girls were in desperate need of a spark.
The Bombers found themselves trailing their rivals from just six miles down Highway 69 by a 24-17 score with four minutes left in the third. Their offense had not been able to get anything going since the first quarter and led by the inspired play of Lucy Schaffer North Polk appeared poised to pull off the big upset.
But in a span of 12 seconds Loewe converted back-to-back three-point plays. The first came with 3:50 left and then Loewe came up with a steal near midcourt and took the distance for a basket-and-one.
“We needed to come out and get steals and then the layups go in and we hit the free throw too and it starts a run,” Loewe said. “That’s what we needed.”
From then on it was all Ballard. The Bombers ended the game on an emphatic 30-6 run to pull off a 49-30 victory and remain unbeaten on the season at 9-0 overall and 6-0 in the Raccoon River Conference.
“North Polk is a very good team and they come after you, so we had that little discussion at halftime that we’ve got to get it done with our defense,” Ballard head coach Kelly Anderson said. “We’re playing defense, getting rebounds, getting steals and getting the ball out and running that’s when we’re at our best. We finally turned the light switch on.”
Ballard ended up holding North Polk (4-5, 3-3) to 32 % shooting and forcing 24 turnovers. The Bombers also held a slight 27-26 rebounding advantage.
A big reason Ballard won the battle on the boards and was able to keep the North Polk offense at bay was the inspired play of Ashley Wuestenberg off the bench.
Starting Bomber center Cassidy Thompson had been struggling against the physical presence of North Polk’s Sydney Anderson throughout the first three quarters. That forced Anderson to go to the stronger Wuestenberg and she delivered, scoring four points and grabbing six rebounds to help hold the fort until Loewe and the Bomber pressure defense turned the tide.
“We’ve all been working in practice to get those 50-50 balls and be strong,” Wuestenberg said.
Thompson was thrilled to see her best friend come in for her and deliver against the Comets.
“We do have such a deep bench,” Thompson said. “When some of us aren’t playing as well we have someone that can come in and fill the position just as well. It was great so see Ashley go out there and get those points when we needed some of that momentum.”
Wuestenberg’s play inspired her best friend to pick up her game down the stretch. After sitting out most of the third quarter Thompson went back out on the floor to start the fourth and ended up scoring seven of her nine points and pulling down a couple of rebounds over the final eight minutes.
“Ashley was a big lift for us off the bench tonight and Cassidy probably saw that and decided to play like she did at Gilbert,” Anderson said. “We need her to do that all of the time. Get out there and be physical, get rebounds and score inside. That just makes us a very tough team.”
Loewe ended up with 15 points, six steals and five assists. She said it was great for her team to face some adversity upon its return from Christmas break and grind out a tough conference win.
“We all know we have a really tough conference,” Loewe said. “I think that sets us up really well for the end of the season when we have to play those tough games.”
Meg Rietz had seven points, six rebounds and one block and Molly Ihle and Josie Fleischmann scored six points apiece for Ballard. Ihle also had six rebounds, five steals and three assists and she helped hold leading North Polk scorer Makayla Boatman scoreless after Boatman entered the game averaging 16.
Lucy Schaffer led North Polk with 15 points – 10 of those coming in the first half. Hannah Foster hit two three pointers and scored eight points, Abi Zimmer added four points and Anderson pulled down 11 rebounds for the Comets.
Ballard 49, North Polk 30
NP 3 15 7 5 – 30
B 10 4 13 22 – 49
North Polk (30) - Lucy Schaffer 5-13 3-6 15, Hannah Foster 3-7 0-0 8, Abi Zimmer 2-3 0-0 4, Sydney Anderson 0-2 2-2, Makayla Boatman 0-4 0-0 0, Paige Johnson 0-0 0-0 0, Kaylee Koudelka 0-0 0-0 0, Ashley Owen 0-0 0-0 0, Liza Schaffer 0-2 0-0 0, Marlee Springer 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 10-31 6-10 30. 3-point field goals (4): L. Schaffer 2, Foster 2. Rebounds (26): Anderson 11. Assists (7): L. Schaffer 2, Zimmer 2, Foster 2. Steals (8): L. Schaffer 3, Foster 3. Blocks: None. Fouls: 10.
Ballard (49) - Brooke Loewe 6-14 2-2 15, Cassidy Thompson 4-6 0-0 9, Meg Rietz 3-5 0-0 7, Molly Ihle 1-6 3-4 6, Josie Fleischmann 2-7 0-0 6, Ashley Wuestenberg 2-4 0-0 4, Kylie Rigby 0-1 2-2 2, Paityn Noe 0-0 0-1 0, Lilly Hillebrand 0-2 0-0 0, Lily Beall 0-0 0-0 0, Sydney Briggs 0-1 0-0 0, Paige Noe 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 18-46 7-9 49. 3-point field goals (6): Fleischmann 2, Loewe, Thompson, Rietz, Ihle. Rebounds (27): Rietz 6, Ihle 6, Wuestenberg 6. Assists (11): Loewe 5. Steals (17): Loewe 6. Blocks (1): Rietz. Fouls: 10.