Ballard girls sluggish in opening loss to Dallas Center-Grimes
The Ballard girls' basketball team found out that defending a state championship is going to be a tough task in its season opener with Dallas Center-Grimes Friday at the Ballard High gym in Huxley.
The No. 2 team in Class 3A trailed nearly the entire way in a 54-37 loss to the fifth-ranked team in 4A.
"It's a bigger deal when we get beat than when we win," Ballard head coach Kelly Anderson said. "You can tell that when you listen to an opposing locker room when they go in. It's pretty loud — like they just won the state championship."
The game showed that it will take some time for Ballard to replace last year's outstanding senior class. That group led the Bombers to their second state championship in school history with a win over Glenwood in the 4A title game.
Here is what we learned from Ballard's season opener:
Defense needs work
Outstanding defense was the defining characteristic of last year's 24-1 state championship team. Led by all-everything guard Molly Ihle, the Bombers may have been the best defensive basketball team in the entire state, giving up just 28.2 points per game.
On Friday Ballard was clearly three or four steps behind that 2020-21 team's level of play on the defensive end.
"We learned that it's going to be a battle every game," Ballard all-state guard Brooke Loewe said. "Defense is our thing and we just didn't get it done on that side of the ball."
DCG shot only 37% from the field. But the Mustangs hurt the Bombers from outside, making 7 of 18 3-pointers, and they also got to the line 29 times and committed just seven turnovers.
"Molly isn't here anymore so we all have to grow up and do our thing," Anderson said. "We all need to work harder. The coaches need to work harder and players need to work harder. We were kind of lazy at times. We just weren't attacking or helping. We didn't come out with a lot of fire and that's all on me."
Free throws were a killer
The Mustangs made the Bombers pay at the foul line all night Friday.
DCG ended up going 19 of 29 from the charity stripe. Ballard was just 6 of 16 at the line and that 13-point swing nearly made up the difference in the final outcome.
"All we kind of wanted to do was reach and put them on the free-throw line," Anderson said. "That was the difference in the game."
Vanessa Bickford was 7 of 10 and Emma Miner 6 of 8 from the line for DCG Friday. Miner scored a game-high 19 points.
Younger players display confidence
The good news for Ballard is that some inexperienced players stepped up to provide quality minutes in their first significant varsity action against a quality opponent.
Alliyah Thompson came off the bench to put up two points and four rebounds. Brooklyn Baumgardner had one point and three boards and Paige Noe dished out an assist.
"We'd seen that out of some of our kids last summer and during practice time and scrimmages leading up to this," Anderson said. "They're very young and just played a really good basketball team."
Meg Rietz led Ballard with 12 points and four rebounds. Loewe added 11 points, five boards and three steals, Lily Hillebrand six points and four boards, Lily Beall three points and Kylie Rigby two points.
Dallas Center-Grimes 54, Ballard 37
DCG 13 15 14 12 — 54
Ballard 8 10 13 8 — 37
Individual statistical leaders
Points: DCG — Emma Miner 19. Ballard — Meg Rietz 12.
Rebounds: Ballard — Brooke Loewe 5.
Assists: Ballard — Rietz 2, Loewe 2.
Steals: Ballard — Loewe 3.
Blocks: Ballard — Baumgardner 1.