CONRAD — The Lynnville-Sully girls’ basketball team withstood Class 1A No. 8 AGWSR’s first punch in their 1A Region 1 championship game on Monday night.
The Hawks weren’t so fortunate the second time around.
The Cougars used a 13-2 spurt to start the third quarter to pull away during a 53-45 win at BCLUW High School.
Lynnville-Sully got the game back to single digits in the fourth quarter but didn’t have enough offense to complete a comeback. The Hawks lost in the regional finals for the fourth straight season.
“The girls battled. They fought hard. The ball just didn’t bounce our way. We couldn’t get into a rhythm,” L-S coach Jerry Hulsing said. “We just weren’t sharp. We didn’t execute the game plan very well.”
AGWSR won its fifth straight game. The Cougars have not lost to a 1A team this season.
The Hawks’ focus defensively was on senior Mandy Willems, who came into the game averaging 19 points per game. Hulsing had senior Mariah Vos face guarding Willems for much of the game. She finished with 17 points but had only five at halftime.
Unfortunately for the Hawks, other Cougars stepped up when Willems wasn’t scoring.
Five different players scored out of the gate to give AGWSR (21-2) a 10-4 lead, but L-S roared back to get within 12-10 after one quarter.
The Cougars opened the second frame on a 9-0 run to go up 11. Four different players scored during that stretch but Willems buried an open 3-pointer.
Junior Carson Fisk nailed an important 3-pointer midway through the quarter to bring the deficit back into single digits.
Fisk hit another jumper and Vos buried two free throws to make it a six-point game.
After the lead went back up to eight, L-S got a pair of free throws by freshman Krystal Van Dyke and Fisk splashed in another trey just before the halftime horn. That bucket gave her 10 points for the half and trimmed the halftime margin to 24-22.
“They are scoring in the upper 60s per game so we wanted to grind it out,” Hulsing said. “We were just really too amped up in the first half and made some uncharacteristic mistakes. We just could never really lock down and get settled into a routine.”
But even in a tight game, L-S was losing the rebounding battle, missing open layups and not taking advantage of its attempts at the free-throw line.
That would later catch up to the Hawks, who capped their season at 18-7.
The two teams traded buckets to begin the second half, but AGWSR rolled off 11 in a row after that to go back up by double-digits. The Hawks never got closer than eight the rest of the way. AGWSR won the third quarter 17-8.
“We were getting kids other than the two top scorers to shoot, and that’s what we wanted to do,” Hulsing said. “But we allowed way too much penetration to the middle and didn’t rebound the basketball well at all. That really hurt us. They got a lot of second-chance points.”
The Cougars led by 13 early in the fourth after a free throw by junior Aubrie Fisher.
But Fisk answered with a three-point play and then sophomore Mallory Loftus added a putback to get back within single digits.
AGWSR couldn’t never really pull away, and even missed several free throws in the closing minutes to keep the door open a little bit for the Hawks.
Fisk hit a 3-pointer and then scored a layup inside to get her team within nine two different times. She finished with a game-high 22 points and eight rebounds, but no other Hawk scored in double-figures.
“They never quit. They showed a lot of character,” Hulsing said. “A lot of teams would have just packed it in and said they were done. Not these kids. These kids fight hard and battle. They do everything we ask them to do. I just think the world of them.
“They are great kids. I love them to death. They showed what they are made of.”
Hulsing has to replace four seniors next season as Vos, Jataya Meyer, Camryn Russell and Christine Nikkel all graduate in the spring. Meyer had five points, six rebounds and three assists against the Cougars, and Vos added four points, seven rebounds and three steals. Russell also dished out three assists.
“I want to thank our seniors,” Hulsing said. “They have given so much to this program and unfortunately, each of the last four years ended in a regional final game. We wish them well in their future plans. They are great young ladies.”
Junior Shiloh Cunningham grabbed eight boards and sophomore Mallory Loftus chipped in six points and six rebounds. The Hawks were plagued by 16 turnovers. They were 12-of-22 from the foul line.
Sophomore Rachel Sicard came into the game averaging five points per game for the Cougars but finished with 11 with six rebounds and four blocks. Fisher scored nine points, which was four under her season average.
Lynnville-Sully 10-12-8-15 — 45
AGWSR 12-12-17-12 — 53
L-S (FG/3-pt): Meyer 2/1-0-3-5, Cunningham 1-2-1-4, Russell 0-0-3-0, Fisk 8/3-3-3-22, Vos 0-4-1-4, Loftus 2/1-1-2-6, Van Dyke 1-2-2-4. TOTALS: 14/5-12-15-45.
AGWSR: Finger 0-2-5-2, Willems 7/1-2-1-17, Fisher 4-1-1-9, Barrick 1-0-3-2, Sicard 5-1-4-11, Kuper 2-1-2-5, Hames 2-0-3-4, Brandt 1-1-0-3. TOTALS: 22/1-8-19-53.