By Chris Umscheid
North Liberty Leader
MARION– They fought hard to the bitter end, but a strong second half performance by the Linn-Mar Lions ended the season for the Iowa City West High Women of Troy Saturday night, Feb. 22, in the Lions’ gym.
Linn-Mar took the Class 5A regional semifinal game, 46-37.
The first period ended in a 10-all tie as Mollie Mason, Emily Halverson and Ali Tauchen kept pace with the Lions. A 3-point goal by Grace Tafolla followed by field goals from Mikaela Morgan and Mason gave West a 17-10 lead, and prompted the Lions to take a timeout. Following the pause, Linn-Mar’s Katie Sommer sank a 3-point shot, a shot across the bow and glimpse of things to come. A freshman, Halverson, answered with a pair of baskets as the Women of Troy took a 23-18 lead at the half.
That lead evaporated quickly as play resumed in a barrage of 3-pointers by the Lions. Jessie Harder gave the lead back to West, 30-27 with a 3-point shot, her only basket of the night. However, West trailed by one point, 31-30, going into the final eight minutes.
The Lions launched another 3-pointer and Tafolla and Morgan worked to again close the gap. Tafolla hit a free throw while Morgan nailed a field goal to trail, 34-33.
Mason tied the game at 35-all with less than five minutes remaining. Katie Sommer sank another 3-pointer before the remaining Linn-Mar points were found at the foul line. Maddie Huinker gave the West fans a reason to cheer in the final minute as she put in West’s final two points.
“We had our chances in the second half,” coach BJ Mayer said. “We were leading going into the break, and we only scored 14 points in the second half.” The Lions effectively shut down Mason and Morgan in the second half after a good run in the first. “Mollie got going early, got some drives to the basket especially against their zone. But when they went to the man, they did a better job of guarding them.”
That barrage of 3-bombs also was key, Mayer said. “They missed those 3-pointers in the first half and in the second they made great shots. Those Sommer girls (Kristie and Katie) hit some, and we struggled to get those two covered up.”
The Women of Troy made it to the semifinal round by hammering Cedar Rapids Jefferson 50-30 last Wednesday (Feb. 19) at home. Tafolla led West with a dozen points while Mason had 11 in that contest. Against Linn-Mar, Mason led with nine points.
The loss gives West a 12-11 record for the season, and ends the careers of seniors Paige Parker, Kristina Bauer, Mason and Jordan Schneider.
Mayer took a moment to reflect on the season and the prospects for next year.
“I told the kids what we’re most proud of is we just kept getting better and better. We lost Dani Craig (junior) to an ACL before we played our first game. We played five freshmen (Regan Steigleder, Ali Tauchen, Maddie Fay, Maddie Huinker, Emily Halverson), a sophomore, some kids that hadn’t had much experience, and from the first game to the last, they made leaps and bounds of improvement.”
Mayer said he was excited to see what the squad will do during the off-season to prepare for an even better 2014-2015 season.
Mollie Mason led West with nine points while Kristie Sommer (Linn-Mar) led all with 14 and Katie Sommer had 10.
Mikaela Morgan had eight points against the Lions and eight against the J-Hawks. Emily Halverson put in six points, Ali Tauchen had five, Grace Tafolla had a four-point night, Jessie Harder added three points via a 3-point shot while Maddie Huinker put in two points.
Thirteen of West’s 37 points came from freshmen.
Morgan was tops in rebounds with 14 and led in assists with three.
Linn-Mar defeated West on Dec. 6 in Marion, 42-32. The Lions (15-8) advanced to a Class 5A regional final in Marshalltown against Waukee (19-3) Tuesday night, Feb. 25.