The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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February 26, 2013

Iowa girls basketball state tournament: Marquette survives

DES MOINES — Marquette Catholic felt pretty comfortable with a 16-point lead in the second quarter Monday afternoon.

By the fourth quarter, that feeling was gone. So was the lead.

Ar-We-Va senior Megan Ehlers hit a 3-pointer to complete the long comeback and put the Rockets ahead by two with 31 seconds left in regulation, their first lead.

With 9 seconds left, Marquette sophomore Blake Banowetz was fouled and went to the free-throw line with a chance to make both and tie the game. She missed the first.

“I was already thinking about how to apologize to the team,” Banowetz said. “I let my nerves get to me and I almost started breaking down.”

Teammates consoled her as she went to the huddle for a timeout between shots, but when she returned to the line she missed again. Sarah Lampe grabbed the offensive rebound and missed. Banowetz got another offensive rebound and scored with 2 seconds left to send the game to overtime. In the extra period, Marquette played the way it played to start the game and grabbed a 65-57 win to advance to Wednesday night’s Class 1A girls basketball state semifinal.

“I’m speechless,” Marquette senior Kelsey Tebbe said. “I just started bawling when we won.”

What seemed to be an almost sure victory when the Mohawks scored 14 of the first 16 points and led 26-10 in the second quarter was very much in doubt when Ar-We-Va coach Larry Siebert called timeout between Banowetz’s two free throws.

“When we were in the timeout, Coach said, ‘If she makes it, you’ve got to foul. If she misses, we need to crash the boards,’” Lampe said. “He said, ‘Don’t worry about fouls. Don’t worry about anything. Just go to the ball.’ When I was standing there and the ball went up, I was just thinking about going for the ball. I didn’t care if I got my fourth foul. I didn’t care if I plowed someone over. I was getting that ball, and I did. I missed the shot, but my teammate was there to pick me up. Blake had my back, and she put it in.”

In the postgame news conference, Marquette coach Jim Kettmann joked that it was a coaching decision to have Banowetz miss the free throw.

“I didn’t mean to miss the second one; that was an accident,” Banowetz said. “Sarah rebounded and I knew I had to repay my team somehow. I hustled and got it. I put it up and I had no time to think about it. I’m so glad I made it because we all want this so bad. I’m really glad we get to continue.”

It’s not often a coach wants the opposing team to score, but Siebert was rooting for Banowetz to make the second free throw.

“I turned to (assistant coach Jake Liekweg) and I said, ‘Geez, I hope they make it,’” Siebert said. “Then we’ll still be ahead, we’ll get the ball out of bounds and set up a press break. We’ve got three great ballhandlers. The worst thing that could happen was them miss, get the rebound and put it in, which is what they did.”

Two years ago, Ar-We-Va overcame a 12-point deficit to defeat Marquette in the Class 1A semifinals. The Mohawks seniors were dealing with some unpleasant flashbacks to that game.

“I was very worried,” Danielle Bender said. “But as a captain and a senior, you have to stay positive for your team. I was thinking in the back of my mind, ‘This is going to be just like sophomore year.’ Blake pulled through, and she really stepped up for us.”

While sophomores got Marquette to overtime — Banowetz and Nikki Blum scored 12 of Marquette’s final 13 points in regulation — the seniors led the way in the extra 4 minutes.

“These guys took over,” Kettmann said. “That’s what seniors are supposed to do, and that’s what our seniors did.”

Bender scored the first four points of overtime and outscored Ar-We-Va 7-5 in the period. Lampe made four free throws, and senior Theresa Koos made a pair from the line.

“I think it helped that it was a 0-0 game again; we were tied,” Bender said. “There was no pressure either way. It was like the start of a new game, just go out and play. It worked. Maybe we’re just a good overtime team, I don’t know.”

Marquette won the tip and pounded the ball into Bender, who scored a team-high 22 points, on three of its first four possessions. Those three possessions turned into three made layups.

“They were getting it in to me, that’s the big thing,” Bender said. “I threw the ball away a lot in the beginning and made some stupid choices, so I wanted to make up for that in overtime. Blake gave us another shot, and I didn’t want to take that for granted.”

The Mohawks sealed the game by shooting 7-of-8 from the free-throw line after Bender’s three buckets.

During Ar-We-Va’s run, Blum kept Marquette enough in front to be able to force overtime. After handling Ar-We-Va’s pressure all game, Lampe started having some trouble with it in the third quarter. So Blum came in to help. Not only did she help bring the ball upcourt, but she scored eight consecutive points for the Mohawks — including hitting two 3-pointers — to keep them in front as Ar-We-Va scored 11 points during that stretch.

“Somebody needed to not be afraid to dribble the ball,” Blum said. “I worked all summer on dribbling, so I knew I could I do it.

“I’ve been off (shooting) the past few games. Finally, I started thinking about the back of the rim and just made my shots.”

Marquette had a couple main areas of focus before the game. One was not letting Ar-We-Va get good shots from the outside. The Rockets shot 9-of-37 on 3-pointers. Another was rebounding, and Marquette held a 57-39 advantage in that category.

“Before the game, the coaches told us we were going to have to crash the boards,” Lampe said. “Our big girls crashed the boards like crazy and we took off. When you get a big rebound, it gets you excited to get down the court and score.”

Bender led the way in that area with a game-high 17, including six offensive rebounds.

“Before the game, I always visualize what I’m going to do,” Bender said. “That was the one thing I kept telling myself that I had to rebound.”

The Mohawks also wanted to get out to an early lead, which they did.

“We knew we had to start strong,” Bender said. “In the Grundy (Center regional final) game and this game, we started strong both times, and that gave us the momentum to pull through.”

This time despite Ar-We-Va’s response, that early momentum allowed the Mohawks to hang on just enough, despite surrendering another large lead against the Rockets.

“I think we had a mental breakdown for a little bit,” Bender said. “We were all kind of shell-shocked, like, ‘We can’t lose this lead again, for a second time.’ I think it was really good that we got to go into overtime and redeem ourselves. Going out like that, I wouldn’t have been able to live with that.”

Bender and the rest of the Mohawks don’t have to.

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