CEDAR RAPIDS — Laurie Donald waited for the slip that seemed inevitable.
“I kept thinking the kids were going to crack under pressure,” said the girls’ basketball coach at Benton Community High School. “We were undefeated, we were ranked No. 1.
“But they just didn’t. They were so tough mentally.”
The Bobcats enjoyed the best season in school history, rattling off 24 straight victories before a wrist injury suffered by Madison Weekly ended the run in the Class 3A state quarterfinals.
It was, in Donald’s words, “a season beyond my wildest dreams.
“We had our banquet last week, and it was tough,” she said. “It’s hard to say good bye to our seniors, and it’s hard to let go of what we accomplished. It was bittersweet, because we’ll never know what would have happened if we would have stayed healthy. But we were able to celebrate so much.”
The Gazette and KCRG-TV9 honor Donald as the 2011-2012 All-Area Girls’ Basketball Coach of the Year.
Ally Disterhoft of Iowa City West is the Gazette/KCRG 2011-2012 All-Area Player of the Year after leading the Women of Troy to the Class 4A state championship.
She is one of five Iowa City players named to the 10-girl team. West’s Mckenzie Piper also was selected, along with Mickey Hansche and Sierra Chambers of City High and Zoe Dutchik of Regina.
The rest of the team consists of Weekly, as well as Courtney Strait of Cedar Rapids Kennedy (the leading scorer this season in Class 4A at 20.7 points per game), Liz Skotowski of Mount Vernon, Tessa Leytem of Dubuque Wahlert and Madison Baier of South Tama.
Donald, 37, has coached 15 years at Benton, the last eight as the head coach. The program has risen steadily — she has a 129-53 mark — before exploding this year.
Coming off their first state tournament in school history last year (they lost in the first round to Mount Vernon), the Bobcats started the season ranked No. 6 in 3A. They knocked off then-No. 1 Williamsburg, 41-39, on the road Dec. 6, and moved to the top spot themselves in mid-January.
Benton was 23-0 when it faced Keokuk in the regional finals. The Bobcats lost star guard Weekly when she suffered a fractured wrist and fell behind early by 10 points.
They rallied to win that game and return to state, but they fell to Ballard, 50-34, in the state quarterfinals.
“It was fun to see the kids develop,” said Donald, who gave birth to a son, Kole, at the beginning of the season. “All year long, they got a little stronger.”
Disterhoft was tabbed as the player of the year after West capped a 25-1 season by outlasting Ankeny, 61-56, in overtime in the state final.
“To realize our dreams, it was an amazing feeling,” Disterhoft said. “Our expectations were tremendously high, but we made the next game in front of us the biggest game of the season. I think everybody embraced that and it allowed us to stay focused and have fun.”
A 6-foot guard, Disterhoft averaged 16.4 points per game. She shot 60.2 percent from the field — a remarkable rate for a perimeter player — including 40.8 percent from long distance and 75.5 percent from the free throw line.
She averaged 3.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 2.2 steals per game. She had 42 blocks, including one at the end of the state-quarterfinal game that preserved a win over Iowa City High.
“Over the summer, I played for a couple (AAU teams),” Disterhoft said. “Coach (B.J.) Mayer, my parents, my AAU coaches … they were all very supportive and it all helped me become a more complete player.”
A state-qualifying middle-distance runner the past two years, Disterhoft is bypassing the track season this spring to focus on AAU basketball.
She plans to make a decision on her college plans within the next month; Iowa and Iowa State are among the programs that have sent offers her way.
“I’m just going to take things day by day and sort things out with my family,” she said.
2011-12 GAZETTE-KCRG ALL-AREA GIRLS’ BASKETBALL TEAM
|Madison Baier||6-4||Sr.||South Tama||15.8|
|Sierra Chambers||6-2||Sr.||Iowa City High||13.6|
|Ally Disterhoft||6-0||Jr.||Iowa City West||16.4|
|Zoe Dutchik||5-11||Sr.||Iowa City Regina||17.5|
|Mickey Hansche||5-6||Jr.||Iowa City High||15.3|
|Tessa Leytem||5-11||Sr.||Dubuque Wahlert||16.3|
|Mckenzie Piper||6-0||Sr.||Iowa City West||12.9|
|Liz Skotowski||5-8||Sr.||Mount Vernon||15.1|
|Courtney Strait||5-9||Sr.||Cedar Rapids Kennedy||20.7|
|Madison Weekly||5-7||Jr.||Benton Community||18.0|
Player of the Year – Ally Disterhoft, Iowa City West
Coach of the Year – Laurie Donald, Benton Community
Ally Disterhoft, Courtney Strait, Gazette/KCRG all-area girls basketball, Laurie Donald, Liz Skotowski, Madison Baier, Madison Weekly, McKenzie Piper, Mickey Hansche, Sierra Chambers, Tessa Leytem, Zoe Dutchik