The Iowa girls basketball season, and one team's hopes of a state title ended on Saturday night in dramatic fashion at Wells Fargo Arena, as a last-second layup from senior Megan Morenz clinched a 65-63 win for Newell-Fonda over Bishop Garrigan, and secured the team's second consecutive Class 1A title.
For the Golden Bears, the bucket was a devastating ending to a dream season.
Early in the game, it looked like Bishop Garrigan might shock the world and beat Newell-Fonda, who came into the game as winners of their past 53 consecutive games. At halftime, the Golden Bears led the Mustangs, 33-30. At the end of the third quarter, the Golden Bears led by 14 points, 54-40. In the fourth though, Newell-Fonda showed why it is one of the state's most feared teams.
The Mustangs chipped away at the 14-point deficit, and took the lead with 1:58 left in the game on a layup from Macy Sievers.
The teams traded leads throughout the final minute, and with 21.9 seconds left, the game was tied at 63-63. On the final play, Newell-Fonda junior Ella Larsen stole the ball from freshman Audi Crooks, and passed it out to Morenz. When Morenz ran the length of the court, and tipped the ball in with four seconds left, the Newell-Fonda crowd went into joyful hysterics. Across the court, the Bishop Garrigan fans and sideline stood, stunned.
The Mustangs outscored the Golden Bears, 25-9, in the final frame.
"There is some hurt from just losing," Bishop Garrigan coach Brandon Schwab said. "Anytime you lose, and anytime you have to say goodbye to six good seniors, it's hard."
Schwab blamed himself for the loss, saying that he "rolled the dice too much" in the second half.
"Maybe with a lead I should've subbed some players out, but you know, I've had the philosophy my whole life of trust the players," Schwab said. "Leave them on the court. Maybe I rolled it a little too much."
Going up against the vaunted Newell-Fonda press defense, the Golden Bears performed extremely well in the first half. In the first half, Crooks scored 23 points, and the team was shooting 62 percent from the field at the mid-game break.
Crooks finished the game with 34 points with 17 rebounds, and set the Iowa girls high school single-season record for most points ever scored by a freshman player. Though it was of little comfort after the loss, Crooks was grateful to her teammates for helping her set a historic accomplishment.
"In my opinion, I didn't set that record, the team set that record," Crooks said. "They're the ones that get me the ball, and give me the opportunity to score."
Crooks was also named the Class 1A All-Tournament team captain after the game.
"It means a lot," Crooks said. "It means that all of my hard work has paid off. I have to thank my team. Team above me."
The game was Bishop Garrigan's first state title appearance in team history. Though six seniors will graduate this year, the team will return both of its top two scorers in Crooks and fellow freshman Molly Joyce. Schwab knows that the team will have to adjust to those losses when next season begins.
"We're graduating six really good leaders, and those shoes don't get filled overnight," Schwab said. "They sacrificed playing time, and scoring opportunities, because it was for the betterment of the team. You don't just replace that overnight."
Bishop Garrigan finished its season with a record of 25-2.
With three more years of eligibility, Crooks is already ready to make her way back to Wells Fargo Arena, and try again.
"Nobody likes to lose," Crooks said. "It's just drive. Every time you miss you miss a shot in the gym, you think 'That might've been the shot that would've won us the championship at the Well'. You use it as motivation and hopefully it'll help me get back here next year."
Another shot at at Newell-Fonda would be nice too.
"I definitely hope so," Crooks said. " I think maybe the tides would be shifted."
Be the first to know
Get local news delivered to your inbox!