For the St. Ansgar girls basketball team, not getting to the Iowa girls state basketball tournament for the past 19 years was a big motivator.
Not only did the Saints want to break that nearly two-decade string, they wanted to show they belonged on the big stage.
The Saints' trip to state was the highlight of the St. Ansgar winter sports season.
For the 21-2 St. Ansgar, girls basketball team, getting to the state tournament was no easy task.
A 60-51 win over Central Elkader gave the Saints their first state tournament berth since 2001.
Once there, St. Ansgar took care of business in the opening round on March 4, downing Montezuma, 51-46, to advance to the Class 1A semifinal game against powerhouse Newell-Fonda, the No. 1 seed in the eight-team field.
For two seasons now, no team has been able to solve the riddle that is Newell-Fonda.
With a suffocating press defense, tremendous speed and an offense averaging 78 points per game, the Mustangs came into the Class 1A girls state semifinal against St. Ansgar with 52 consecutive wins, including last year's state title game win over West Hancock.
From the opening tip-off, St. Ansgar had no answers for the Mustangs, as the Saints fell 84-33 at Wells Fargo Arena.
In the first half, the Mustangs shot 63.2 percent from the field, compared to 36.4 percent for the Saints. St. Ansgar also gave up 17 turnovers in the first half, while Newell-Fonda surrendered only two.
In the second half, the Mustangs outscored the Saints, 25-11, to advance to their third straight state title game.
Against the Mustangs’ suffocating press defense, the Saints gave up 26 turnovers.
Hannah Patterson and Hali Anderson tied for the team high with eight points apiece for St. Ansgar.
For the Saints, it was a disappointing ending to a solid season. St. Ansgar finished the year with a 22-3 record and advanced to the program's first state tournament since 2001.
Most of the starting lineup will return next season for the Saints, as Hannah Patterson is the only graduating player.
The St. Ansgar boys basketball team was upset by Newman Catholic, 48-47, in the Class 1A-District 3 first round game at Lake Mills.
Three players finished in double figures for the Saints – seniors Erik Gerdts and Cade Duckert and junior Braden Powers – each scoring 10 points in a losing effort. Powers also had a team-high eight rebounds.