CEDAR RAPIDS – Cedar Rapids Washington’s senior forward planted her shiny navy and black Jordans into the silver paint covering the hardwood at Xavier High School. With her fingers clenched together making two fists, Abby Herb extended her arms by her waist and looked toward the rafters. The senior forward yelled up to the navy and white Xavier championship banners hanging from the ceiling inside the gym, “Let’s go!”
It came seconds after she planted the same Jordans in the same lane, and took a charge.
Herb’s teammates got the message. Forty-three seconds later, a three point deficit transformed into a three-point lead.
“Just taking charges, for me, it just changes the energy for the game for us,” Herb said. “It gives us energy. Like saying ‘Let’s go’ I’m like let’s go, let’s just do this.”
The Warriors did.
It took a while for Washington to follow through on Herb’s cry, but it erased a third quarter deficit to beat Xavier 57-49. Despite trailing in the second half, the Warriors wrestled away the Saints’ momentum in the first half.
“I thought we gave it away the last minute and half before half,” Xavier head coach Tom Lilly said. “I think we had them, on the ropes a little bit, if you want to call it that.”
The defense repeated the feat in the second half, again igniting a game-changing run. Sophie Malcolm took a charge when the Warriors trailed by three. This time it took a little longer for Washington to respond. But three minutes later, it pieced together a 4-0 run to lead 37-36 to go into fourth.
“Anytime we’re able to take a charge that’s big for us,” Washington head coach Frank Howell said. “It’s something we get really excited about.”
Known for her scoring, Herb’s defense continued to allow the Warriors to execute offensively. In the midst of the end of quarter run, Herb caused a defensive five second call.
Her teammates followed suite in the fourth. Madison Kramer, blocked center Ashley Stulken’s shot, ran the sideline and buried a 3-pointer to grow the Warrior lead to five. It never fell below three again.
“Coach always tell us tough defense leads to good offense for sure,” Washington junior Aleena Hobbs said. Hobbs led the Warriors with 16 points, including a 3. It followed Malcolm’s long range jumper completing a three minute stretch in the fourth quarter, that saw the team’s only 3-piont field goals fall. With 3:34 left it also marked the final field goal of the game for the Warriors.
Washington went 9 of 10 from the line down the stretch.
“We were able to get a little bit of a lead, play a little keep away and get to the line and make some key free throws,” Howell said.
Stulken rallied a Xavier comeback scoring six points and grabbing three rebounds in the final quarter. The senior led the Saints with 15 points and came one rebound shy of a double-double, finishing with nine.
The fourth quarter highlighted the Saints’ issues with holding a lead down the stretch. Xavier led for nearly 14 minutes of the first half, yet went into the half tied at 28-28. The same held true of the third quarter. The Saints resurrected their lead 25 seconds into the third, possessed it for the next 7:30, only to lose it again in the closing seconds.
“I’d have to say we lacked maybe some conditioning,” Lilly said. “We had a lot of kids play, but we had a number of them play a significant number of minutes, probably more so than what they’re accustomed to.”
The Saints refueled to start the fourth, as the lead changed hands four times in the first 1:15. The final lead change came off the hands of Herb when she drained a 3, to go up 42-40.
“We hit some 3s. I think that really kind of galvanized us a little bit defensively,” Howell said. “It gave us energy. Those can be back breakers the other way sometimes.”
Thursday, the 3s finished the runs, which began on the defensive end, resulting in a gift wrapped win to start the new year.
“For us to take two charges in one game,” Howell said. “That’s like Christmas all over again for me.”
WASHINGTON 57, XAVIER 49
At Cedar Rapids, Xavier
Washington 19 16-25 57: Abby Herb 3 3-5 10; Sophie Malcolm 0 1-2 1; Aleena Hobbs 5 5-8 16; Madison Kramer 2 3-4 8; Devin Glenski 0 0-0 0 ; Dani Franklin 6 2-2 14; Colby Bjornsen 1 2-4 4, Callie Cook 1 0-0 2; Jasmyne James 1 0-0 2; Callie Cook 1 0-0 2.
Xavier 19 6-13 49: Kayla Armstrong 1 1-3 3 ; Sarah Dickes 1 0-0 3; Ashley Stulken 7 1-3 15; Abby Watson 0 2-3 2; Hayley Deutmeyer 2 0-0 4; McKenna Andersen 3 0-0 8; Maddie Bertsch 1 2-4 4; Morgan Breitbach 3 0-0 6; Lizzy Bailey 0 0-0 Allison Chorzempa 1 0-0 2.
Halftime: Tied 28-28. 3-point Field Goals: Washington 3-11 (Hobbs, Kramer, Herb) Xavier 3-11 (Andersen 2); Rebounds: Washington 27 (Franklin 6); Xavier 31 (Stulken 9);