On the mark: Fleischmann’s fantastic shooting propels Ballard past North Polk and onto state

Joe Randleman
Tri-County Times
Ballard's Brooke Loewe (left), Paige Noe (center), Sydney Briggs and Josie Fleischmann celebrate with their teammates as Noe holds up their Class 4A state qualifier banner after a 55-35 victory over North Polk in in the regional finals Feb. 23 at Huxley.

HUXLEY - Josie Fleischmann is quite the crowd pleaser. 

Due to COVID-19 the No. 2 Ballard girls’ basketball team had to play nearly the entire season in front of a limited audience. But with the state loosening restrictions and a trip to state on the line versus No. 13 North Polk in the Class 4A regional finals the Ballard High gym was packed Feb. 23. 

North Polk had been the only team to defeat Ballard all season – topping the Bombers by a 44-37 score in Alleman on Feb. 5. The Comets came to play once again on Tuesday and after forcing Ballard into several early turnovers led 10-5 after the first quarter. 

The Bombers still struggled to get anything going on offense in the early stages of the second quarter. Then Fleischmann got hot. 

She made five of her six 3-pointers in the second quarter to jump start the Ballard offense in a big way. The Bombers went up by 11 at the half and never looked back, dismantling the Comets by a 55-35 score to punch their ticket to state for the second year in a row. 

“We’ve had several games where we can’t make anything and struggle to hit the rim,” Ballard all-state guard Molly Ihle said. “We fought through adversity and we knew at last one of them had to go in. Josie’s went in and they kept going in. We fed off of that and after that everything started flowing better. We’re excited – I'm speechless.” 

Fleischmann hit her first 3-pointer with 5:33 left in the second quarter and followed with another one 38 seconds later that gave Ballard its first lead since the opening minutes and got the Bomber faithful worked up into a frenzy. She hit her third with 1:35 left to put Ballard up 21-10 then followed with two more. 

Her final trey came in the final seconds when Ballard did a masterful job working the ball around to get her a clean look just before the final buzzer.  

“As soon as Josie hits one you know there’s some more coming,” Ballard head coach Kelly Anderson said. “Credit to our girls that she got hot and they got her the ball. That turned the game. She went bam, bam, bam and then it got the crowd into it and momentum on our side and that’s what we needed.” 

Fleischmann was an unconscious 6 of 7 from 3-point range for the game. She scored a game-high 20 points, with 15 of those coming in the decisive first half. 

Ballard's Josie Fleischmann watches one of her six 3-pointers go in the hoop during the No. 2 Bombers' 55-35 4A regional final win over No. 13 North Polk Feb. 23 at Huxley.

“I was making those shots for my teammates,” Fleischmann said. “We all work together.” 

Ihle was the primary catalyst for getting Fleischmann the ball. She dished out six assists. 

“Molly got me some dope passes,” Fleischmann said. “You have to make them at that point or then it’s rude.” 

Ihle also had 15 points, making 7 of 8 free throws down the stretch to help seal the victory. She had another amazing game defensively, holding North Polk leading scorer Makayla Boatman to just two points and coming up with seven steals. 

Defense has been Ballard’s forte all season. They are the top defense in 4A and it kept them in the game for over a quarter until Fleischmann got cooking. 

“That’s why we play defense like we play defense,” Anderson said. “You can survive something like that.” 

North Polk only shot 32 % from the field and had 12 turnovers. Ihle was the driving force behind the Bomber defense as usual, but 6-2 center Cassidy Thompson and 6-0 forward Meg Rietz also gave North Polk all kinds of trouble by disrupting the driving lanes for Boatman and Comet guard Lucy Schaffer. 

“We’ve got some nice length,” Anderson said. 

Thompson struggled early against North Polk center Sydney Anderson. Anderson has a lot more physical frame than Thompson and she pushed her around in the first quarter, forcing Anderson to go to Ashley Wuestenberg on the bench. 

That was enough of a wakeup call for Thompson. She finished the game with six rebounds and five blocks. 

“I took Cassidy out early and we had a little talk,” Kelly Anderson said. “She just has to understand that she’s not very big around and when she’s got a girl that’s got some size she’s going to have to battle really hard and start blocking shots. When she starts blocking shots that’s huge and if she doesn’t get them she alters them.” 

Rietz ended up with nine points, seven rebounds and one block. 

Ballard was also glad to have Brooke Loewe back.  

Loewe suffered an ankle injury against Perry in the final week of the regular season. She missed the final regular season game against Winterset and Ballard’s 44-30 win over Mason City in the regional semifinals on Saturday. 

But she was ready to go Tuesday, scoring nine points and adding four rebounds and two steals. 

“I was just really excited to get back on the floor and be ready play again,” Loewe said. “No better way than to play North Polk in a regional final game and get to go to state.” 

North Polk ended its season at 15-8. Anderson had 10 points and Schaffer and Abi Zimmer seven apiece for the Comets. 

“Clint (Albertsen) did a super job with those girls this year,” Anderson said. “With what he lost from last year I give him and that team all kinds of credit. We’ve got one loss and that’s who beat us. We beat a really good team tonight.” 

Ballard will take a 21-1 record into the 4A state quarterfinals.  

“We’ve got to celebrate tonight then get back to work tomorrow,” Fleischmann said. “We’re not done yet.” 

Ballard 55, North Polk 35 

NP    10     6   10     9 – 35 

B         5   22   13   15 – 55 

North Polk (35) - Sydney Anderson 5-8 0-0 10, Lucy Schaffer 2-11 3-4 7, Abi Zimmer 3-3 0-0 7, Hannah Foster 2-6 0-0 5, Paige Johnson 1-2 0-0 3, Makayla Boatman 1-6 0-0 2, Marlee Springer 0-0 1-2 1, Morgan Gray 0-2 0-0 0, Lilli Hintsche 0-0 0-0 0, Trinity Miller 0-0 0-0 0, Kylie Rasmussen 0-0 0-0 0, Liza Shaeffer 0-5 0-0 0. Totals: 14-43 4-9 35. 3-point field goals (3): Zimmer, Foster, Johnson. Fouls: 12. Fouled out: Lu. Schaffer. 

Ballard (55) - Brooke Loewe 2-6 5-6 9, Meg Rietz 2-4 5-7 9, Cassidy Thompson 1-3 0-2 2, Josie Fleischmann 7-9 0-0 20, Molly Ihle 3-8 7-8 15, Kylie Rigby 0-0 0-0 0, Lily Beall 0-0 0-0 0, Sydney Briggs 0-0 0-0 0, Paige Noe 0-0 0-0 0, Ashley Wuestenberg 0-0 0-0 0, Lily Beall 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 15-31 17-23 55. 3-point field goals (8): Fleischmann 6, Ihle 2. Rebounds (25): Rietz 7. Assists (12): Ihle 6. Steals (10): Ihle 7. Blocks (6): Thompson 5. Fouls: 13.