MASON CITY | When No. 8 (4A) Mason City took the court against No. 7 (5A) Southeast Polk, it didn’t look like the Mohawks would put up much of a fight. But a second-half effort by the Mohawks would give the Rams a scare before coming out on top 64-61.
Southeast Polk held the Mohawks scoreless until 1:34 left in the first quarter, when Anna Lensing made a free throw to put up a single point. Sophomore Jaeda Whitner would make the first layup after the team’s 12 attempts to close the first quarter with three points to Rams’ 15.
The second quarter proved to be no different, as the Mohawks fell further behind scoring 12 points to the Rams’ 22 for a 22-point deficit at half.
“Shots weren’t going in and a little bit out of control maybe on offense. That was getting us down a little bit,” head coach Curt Klaahsen said. “We just said at halftime that shots are going to start falling, we just need to keep shooting. We’re shooters, and we’re not very big so we’re not going to pound it inside, we’ve just got to make sure we have open shots we got to shoot on and we’re going to go down fighting.”
The threes started to fall in the third as junior Megan Meyer, sophomore Anna Deets and Whitner each took their shots. Senior Hannah Faktor took control of the floor, driving in for three layups. Defensively, the Mohawks were intercepting passes and grabbing rebounds, limiting opportunities for the Rams to score.
“In the locker room at halftime, we all kind of had our heads down,” Faktor said. “I knew it had to start on the defensive end, so I just came out there with a lot of fire and got everyone fired up.”
The Mohawks would sink 22 points in the third, limiting the Rams to two points until the final two minutes to narrow the deficit to 52-39.
“We were desperate, we had to throw things out there, we went to a full-court press, that was a little change too and that kind of got them off balance too,” Klaahsen said.
As the Mohawks saw the game within reach, they picked up the pace. Storming down the court was sophomore Sami Miller, who found her groove after making her first 3-pointer. With the help of Meyer and Faktor, the Mohawks were within reach at 54-52.
Miller set her feet on the perimeter and let it fly as the Mohawks took their first lead 55-54 with 4:07 left in the game.
“Just really having confidence in my shot and shooting when I’m open and passing the ball to my teammates when they’re open, just trying to come back for the win.” Miller said.
But the Rams had a near-perfect free-throw shooting core, where freshman Grace Larkins went 8-for-11 on the night, including seven in the final quarter to give the Rams the edge as the clock started to run out.
The Rams would tie it up 57-57 before taking the lead 62-61 with 14.8 seconds left on the clock. A final layup by Larkins would seal the win at 64-61, but the Mohawks couldn’t be too disappointed with their performance.
“I think confidence-wise, once you hit a shot or two, it really helps everything that you’re doing. You would hope it’s not that way with players, but when shots aren’t falling, sometimes you don’t work quite as hard on defense or your energy isn’t quite where it should be. I think we played a little harder, the crowd got into it, the girls battled. We were desperate, we had to throw things out there, we went to a full-court press, that was a little change too and that kind of got them off balance too.
“I thought they were really aggressive, especially the second half, taking the ball to the basket, taking the opportunities that were there,” Klaahsen said. “It comes down to hopefully make some shots and get some stops and we just came up one possession short. We’re proud of the kids though for great effort and giving us a chance to win.”