The Boone Central/Newman Grove Lady Cardinals were certainly weary by the end of three games in three days this past weekend.
The reward was sweet, however, as BC/NG advanced to the eight-team Mid-State Conference Tournament bracket with a 52-35 victory over O’Neill in Saturday’s play-in game at Newman Grove.
That victory was preceded by a competitive 60-45 home-court loss to Class C1 #4 Norfolk Catholic Thursday and a 60-50 win at Battle Creek Friday.
The flurry of games certainly tested Boone Central/Newman Grove’s focus and endurance. While the focus may have wavered in and out at times, Cardinal Coach Andy Imus was generally pleased with his team’s overall effort.
“Playing three games in as many days can be reason for concern, but our girls have worked hard all season and held up pretty well,” Imus said. “We continue to take steps in the right direction.”
Norfolk Catholic rolled into Albion Thursday with a big problem for BC/NG in the middle, literally, and rode 6-foot-2 senior Geena Piper’s 16 points and 13 rebounds to a 60-45 victory.
The Cardinals hung close through a quarter of play, trailing 13-10, but Piper tallied eight points in the second period as Catholic opened a 32-20 halftime advantage. The combination of Piper’s presence in the paint and the quickness of the Lady Knights’ surrounding cast proved too much for BC/NG to rally against after intermission.
Boone Central/Newman Grove started slowly the following night at Battle Creek, but got its motor started in the second half to power a 60-50 conference win.
Wallin kept the sluggish Cards close in the opening half, hitting a pair of three-point field goals and scoring 12 points. Trailing 27-26 at intermission, the Cardinals ratcheted up their defense in the second half and got 23 combined points from Wallin and Stuhr to spark the comeback victory. BC/NG finished with a 21-point burst in the fourth quarter, sinking 10-of-16 free throws.
If Imus was a bit worried Friday night, Saturday certainly gave him a challenge to fret over.
However, after another sluggish start, Boone Central/Newman Grove (8-9) again found its stride in the second half and chalked up a 52-35 victory by outscoring O’Neill 27-11.
“Playing our third game in three days, against an opponent we’d already beaten, could have been a recipe for an upset. O’Neill came out loose and just played, hitting three three-pointers to start the game,” Imus noted. “The girls did continue to battle in the first half and we took a 25-24 lead at half.
“The girls didn’t panic and continued to stay within what we wanted to do. Our second-half defensive pressure held them to 11 points.”
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