IMS knocked off the Keota Eagles in the first round of Regionals, 37-36.
It was a back and forth first quarter as both teams executed early on for open looks, but it was Keota that took a one-point advantage going into the second quarter. IMS struggled through the opening minutes of the second as Keota went on an 11-0 run. This pushed the lead to 18-6 which forced an IMS timeout. IMS regrouped following the timeout and closed out the final minutes of the half on a 7-0 run of its own. This cut into the deficit and sent IMS into the locker room down 13-20 at the half.
“I thought we executed well through the majority of the first quarter and then got away from what was working for us,” IMS head coach Kari Heusinkveld said. “We forced too many shots in the second instead of being patient and as we struggled offensively our defense slipped as well. Defense was something we addressed at the half and we made some key adjustments that we felt would slow them down. Offensively the message was just to be patient and get better movement.”
IMS picked up the defensive intensity coming out of the break and with the adjustments held Keota to just seven points. The small squad found success on the offensive end with better ball movement and had their biggest quarter of the night putting up 15. This sent them into the fourth quarter down 28-30, which would set up for a dramatic finish.
IMS continued to get stops through the opening minutes of the fourth and took its first lead in over 22-minutes of play with six-minutes to go at 32-30. Both teams battled down the stretch and scoring was hard to come by through the final minutes of play. With 0:51 left in regulation IMS was down 32-36 and in desperate need of a bucket. On the ensuing possession Suzanna Yoder brought the ball up the court and drove hard to the left. As Yoder drove, she drew the attention of two defenders and kicked the ball back across the top of the key to a wide open Yani Guttierez-Larios who drilled a three with 0:40 left in the game. IMS brought full court pressure and forced a Wildcat turnover and called its final timeout of the game with 0:34 seconds left, down 35-36.
Out of the timeout IMS inbounded the ball and ran the clock down to 0:20 before they looked to execute a set. Yoder drove hard off an Alyssa Hershberger screen and as she passed it inside the ball was deflected by Keota. Guttierez-Larios picked up the loose ball and got it back to Yoder and as Yoder attempted to split two defenders the ball was again deflected. A diving Payton Hart knocked the ball towards the far sideline where it was picked up by Avery Blauvelt. Blauvelt again found Yoder who drove and dished to Guttierez-Larios on the wing. Guttierez-Larios attacked the lane hard from the left side and forced the defense to collapse. As the defense collapsed she dished the ball down low to Hershberger who caught the pass off a slight deflection and knocked down the go ahead bucket with 3.5 seconds remaining. Keota called its final timeout of the game and looked to execute one last possession, but a Yoder steal and half court secured the win for the visitors.
“What a game,” Heusinkveld said. “Our final offensive possession was just unbelievable. We didn’t get the look we originally want, but we were all over the place diving after loose balls to make sure we got one last chance at it. Heart and effort is what got us back in the game tonight and that’s what won it for us at the end. We picked up our defense in the second half and held Keota to one bucket from the field over the final 10-minutes of play. Offensively we executed better and just flat out knocked down big shots. Yani was clutch for us down the stretch, it was great to see her step up tonight. I’m so proud of this group for the fight and resiliency we’ve showed all season long.”
Yoder led IMS with 17 points, five assists and three steals. Hershberger added 12 points to go with seven rebounds. Guttierez-Larios chipped in six points and pulled down six boards, while Hart rounded out the scoring with a bucket and took one charge. Blauvelt pulled down seven offensive rebounds to go with three assists and three steals.
IMS advances to the next round of Regionals for a matchup with English Valleys on Tuesday, February 13th in North English at 7pm. The two teams squared off in mid-December with EV edging out IMS 54-49.