MOUNT VERNON – The Cedar Rapids Xavier girls’ basketball team has been through this before.
Ten years ago, the Saints won a state championship, lost several seniors and struggled through an up and down season before failing to return to the state tournament.
Unfortunately for Xavier (11-12) and its throng of fans that followed to the Mount Vernon High School gym, that trend repeated itself last night – this time on a buzzer beater from North Scott’s Evan Hundley that sent the Lady Lancers (17-6) to the state tournament with a 47-46 victory in their Class 4A Region 3 district final game.
“Anytime you lose like this, it’s a kick in the guy,” said Xavier Coach Tom Lilly. “It’s a situation where you look at a lot of different things. But that game was handed to North Scott in the third quarter. It wasn’t the last play.”
Lilly was referencing a third quarter in which North Scott outscored Xavier, 19-6, after trailing the Saints, 25-19, at halftime.
The bulk of the Lady Lancers’ points came on putbacks after forcing their way into the paint. Lilly said it was a lack of execution under the basket in getting a body on someone and limiting those chances.
“Everyone wants to go and look at the tape and go, ‘All right, which one of you five didn’t finish the job?’ You preach all year long, but we had moments where we had two or three kids who didn’t box out in the middle of the 3rd quarter, giving them second and third opportunities,” Lilly said. “You don’t let them have those second and third opportunities, and we don’t have anything to worry about in that (last) play right there. It’s just part of the game.”
Xavier was faced with full-court pressure all night long from North Scott, and had a good amount of success against it in the first half. That was led mostly by junior Lizzy Bailey – a player Lilly said stepped up in a huge way for Xavier when others didn’t last night – who had 24 points on 8 of 13 shooting from the field.
But in the second half – especially in that back-breaking 3rd quarter – the Saints struggled mightly on its way to 19 total turnovers.
“(They were doing) nothing different, we just lost our composure,” Lilly said. “We were playing kids that don’t have a lot of big-minute experience, and when that happens, it shows up. I thought we quit being aggressive to our basket. Then sometimes we’d get down there, and miss easy baskets. We missed probably five, six, seven point-blank shots.”
The despondency and heartbreak in the Xavier locker room was offset out on the Mount Vernon gym floor after the game.
North Scott had just advanced to its first state tournament since 2003, and needed heroics to do so. Hundley missed the front end of a 1-and-1 before Xavier’s Bailey had sank a 3-pointer to put Xavier up, 46-45, with 16.2 seconds left.
Then the Lady Lancers dribbled down for the final possession.
Junior Karly Soy – who had 14 points on 4 of 11 shooting – missed a contested layup as the clock ticked away, and Hundley’s putback went in right as the buzzer sounded, giving North Scott the win.
“There’s not really words to describe it,” Hundley said. “It was kind of like chaos when I made the layup. I just kind of grabbed it and threw it up.
“I knew that if we weren’t going to get it done, it was going to be on me, so I’m just really glad we came back.”
North Scott Coach TJ Case said those moments from when Soy missed the layup to when the ball got out of Hundley’s hands and into the basket were enough time to go through every scenario imaginable.
“You see it go up and then it doesn’t go in, then you see it pop into our hands,” Case said. “I envisioned that there was going to be enough time to put it back in, but maybe not. Tonight the good Lord was there for us, and she was able to knock the thing in and be in the right place at the right time.”
So the Lady Lancers are on to state, while the Saints are dealt a blow just like the one in 2004.
Lilly said last time around the players who were left over took that setback and used it as motivation. Now, he said, he’ll find out who on this roster will do the same.
“The same exact scenario basically happened to us (in 2004). We had juniors, Maggie O’Connell and Kelly Mitchell – those kids said, ‘This isn’t going to happen to us again,’” Lilly said. “Within a week they were back in the gym. Now, our kids can decide if they want to get away from basketball – I guess that’s their decision.
“We’ll sit down, meet with the kids … but we’ve got to find out who wants to get on the bus.”
AT MOUNT VERNON
CEDAR RAPIDS XAVIER (46): Morgan Breitbach 4-8 0-0 8, Lizzy Bailey 8-13 4-5 24, Hayley Deutmeyer 3-10 1-2 8, Abby Watson 1-3 0-0 2, Maddie Bertsch 2-9 0-0 4, Jenny Dickes 0-1 0-0 0, Meghan Jones 0-0 0-0 0, Erin Drahozal 0-0 0-2 0. Totals 18-44 5-9 46.
NORTH SCOTT (47): Karli Rucker 6-14 2-2 15, Karly Soy 4-11 4-4 14, Gina Percuoco 3-3 0-4 6, Rachel Edmundson 3-11 0-0 4, Evan Hundley 1-3 1-3 3, Lindsay Gallens 0-1 0-0 0, Kaitlin Schmidt 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 18-44 7-13 47.
Halftime –Cedar Rapids Xavier 25, North Scott 19. 3-point goals – Xavier 5-12 (Bailey 4-7, Deutmeyer 1-5). North Scott 4-12 (Rucker 1-3, Soy 2-4, Edmundson 1-4, Gallens 0-1). Rebounds – Xavier 24 (Watson 9), North Scott 30 (Edmundson 12). Total fouls – Xavier 17, North Scott 12. Fouled out – None. Turnovers – Xavier 19, North Scott 15.