BAXTER — The Baxter girls’ basketball team was on the verge of locking down the program’s first win in the Bolts era against GMG on Nov. 28.
Then the shots just wouldn’t fall.
The Bolts led by as many as seven in the third quarter, but a long offensive drought in the fourth allowed the Wolverines to rally, and the end result was a 51-44 loss for the home team.
Baxter scored only two points in the first seven minutes of the fourth frame and was outscored 16-5 overall. The Bolts dropped to 0-3 on the season and 0-1 in Iowa Star Conference play.
“We were tentative against their zone. We didn’t look for gaps like we are supposed to,” Baxter coach Eric Padget said of the fourth-quarter slump.
GMG’s full-court pressure often forced the Bolts into making mistakes. Aside from shooting only 16-of-61 from the floor, Baxter also turned it over way too much.
“We need to cut down on the turnovers. We have to take care of the basketball,” Padget said. “We threw it away way too many times in the first half.”
The Bolts scored five straight points in the first quarter to take an early 5-2 lead and then back-to-back buckets inside the lane by senior Jordynn Wesselink and junior Kaylin Van Ryswyk put Baxter in front by three after one quarter.
The lead grew to 13-6 following a 3-pointer by Wesselink and a free throw by senior Sailor Hinegardner.
The Wolverines though rallied thanks to a healthy diet of free throws. GMG scored six straight points from the foul line to pull within 17-14.
After sophomore Holly Jessen buried a 3-pointer to put the Bolts up six, GMG senior McKensie Vaske went to work. Vaske scored back-to-back layups to get back within two and then a three-point play made it 23-22.
Hinegardner drilled a 3-pointer and Jessen connected on a jumper to extend Baxter’s lead back to six at the break.
The cushion the Bolts built in the first half quickly went away in the third quarter. Kelsey Vaverka scored five straight points to make it 28-27 and then another bucket kept it at a one-point game.
Wesselink then got it going for the Bolts. She converted two putbacks in the lane before and after another layup that started with her own steal at the defensive end. That quick spurt pushed the Bolts’ lead to 36-29.
“I thought we defended well when we didn’t foul. We got a lot of steals, but when we got tired we fouled,” Padget said. “There is no defense against a free throw. I thought our defense was solid and we rebounded well, too.”
Unfortunately for the Bolts, fouls became an issue. GMG made more free throws (25) than Baxter attempted (19) in the game. There were 49 fouls called in the game, and 29 of those were whistled on the Bolts.
The Bolts only made 9-of-19 from the line in the game but still led by four after three quarters.
“We foul too much. We put them on the line way too much and they made 25 free throws,” Padget said. “Half of their points were at the line. We can’t do that and win games. We are not going to score a bunch of points this year.”
Hinegardner made two free throws with 3:11 to play in the fourth quarter to put the Bolts up 41-39. But that would be the only points of the quarter for Baxter until junior Sydney Schmidt hit a free throw with 33 seconds to play and Van Ryswyk scored inside with less than 10 seconds to go.
On the flip side, GMG hit 12 free throws in the fourth quarter alone to pull away.
Vaske scored nine of her game-high 19 points in the second quarter. She made 5-of-6 from the foul line in the final 35 seconds to keep the Bolts at arms length.
Kelsey Vaverka made nine free throws in the win and scored 15 points as the only other Wolverine in double-figures.
Wesselink led the Bolts in scoring for the second straight game, finishing with 13 points and 10 rebounds. She also had six steals of Baxter’s 25 steals.
Hinegardner chipped in eight points and had seven steals for the Bolts.
“They did a good job of keying on Sailor when she had the ball. She got ahead of herself a little bit. I think it got in her head when (the officials) called all the travels on her,” Padget said. “She takes big steps after she stops so it looks like a travel. That took her out of her game a little bit though.”
Jessen, Schmidt and Van Ryswyk all scored seven points. Jessen collected six steals and three rebounds, Schmidt tallied four steals and four rebounds and Van Ryswyk grabbed eight boards.
The Bolts played Meskwaki Settlement School on Dec. 5. They play Collins-Maxwell at 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 8 in Maxwell.