The IMS girls lost to No. 3 ranked North Mahaska in the Regional Semi-Finals, 44-49.
On paper it was David vs. Goliath, a lopsided matchup between the top ranked North Mahaska Warhawks in a perfect season at 21-0, vs. an unranked 5-16 IMS. Sixty-four points per contest facing 39, with the Warhawks having home court advantage. But when all the odds are stacked against them, the IMS girls did what they’ve done all season long; rise.
IMS got North Mahaska back on their heels from the jump, when they won the tip and scored off the opening possession behind an Alyssa Hershberger shot fake and drive from the high post. The game was back and forth throughout the first quarter but a few late Warhawks baskets left IMS down 9-15 after the first eight minutes of play. IMS closed the gap to one, down 16-17 midway through the second before they went cold from the field. During the final 1:30 of the first half, Yani Gutierrez-Larios knocked down a three to pull IMS back within two at 19-21 but the Warhawks answered with a bucket inside and sent IMS into the locker room down 19-23 at the break.
“I loved the way we started this game and the way we battled during the first half,” IMS head coach Kari Heusinkveld said. “I don’t think anybody outside of our locker room thought we stood a chance, but this group has been something special. Obviously being down at the break is familiar territory for us so the girls were extremely relaxed and comfortable in the locker room at halftime. We needed to make some adjustments defensively to do a better job of gapping and rotating over on our back side of the zone, so we addressed that and offensively we felt like we could take advantage of some set pieces as well as get out in transition.”
IMS came out and executed exactly what was discussed at the break. They started off with a strong defensive stand that led to a rebound and a Suzanna Yoder fast break bucket to pull them within two. IMS continued to battle and tied the game at 27-all just three minutes into the third and forced a North Mahaska timeout. The game was neck-and-neck through the remainder of the quarter and as the buzzer sounded to end the third, the underdogs found themselves down just two, 32-34. After a season of overcoming obstacles, IMS’s dream of advancing to the Regional Finals would come down to one final quarter of play.
IMS had the possession arrow to start the fourth and a Yoder drive to the basket forced a Warhawk foul that sent her to the line. Yoder knocked down the first of two free-throws, and after knocking down the second to tie the game at 34-34, the crowd began to chant “IMS.” IMS locked down on defense and got a stop the next possession and an Avery Blauvelt bucket inside brought the crowd to its feet. The Blauvelt bucket gave the small squad its first lead since the opening minutes of the game up 36-34 and left North Mahaskan fans wondering just who IMS was.
North Mahaska would go on a 7-2 run over the next four minutes that gave them a 41-38 advantage. But with 2:26 remaining Yoder drilled an important three that not only tied the game but gave her the 1,000th point of her career. The following possession North Mahaska crashed the glass and picked up an offensive rebound for a put back with just under two minutes in regulation. IMS had a chance to answer but couldn’t knock down the shot and a quick counter attack in transition led to another Warhawk basket. IMS ran a set the following possession but came up empty handed and had to bring full court pressure down 41-45 with under minute to play. The small squad pressured North Mahaska and was forced to foul to try and extend the game. With 39.2 seconds left in regulation, the Warhawks knocked down a pair of free throws and IMS called a timeout down 41-47.
Out of the huddle IMS got an open look for Yoder who drilled another three and as the ball went through the net a foul was called on North Mahaska. After some discussion amongst the officials, they counted the bucket and IMS got possession of the ball down 44-47 with 25.1 seconds to go. IMS inbounded the ball and looked to execute a set but when the play broke down they called their final timeout of the game with 14.9 seconds left. The small squad had a chance to tie with a Yoder three, but a North Mahaska defender was able to deflect the shot and pick up the loose ball. IMS fouled with 8.9 seconds remaining but the Warhawks closed out the game by knocking down a pair of free throws.
“I’m so proud of this group right now,” Heusinkveld said. “After all that we’ve been through this season, the hills and the valleys, to have the post season run that we did and nearly take down the No. 3 team in the state is just incredible. This group has worked so hard all year and even in our post season run continued to get better during every practice and every game. I’m so proud of our performance and am happy that we get to send our seniors out on a note like this. The improvements they’ve made individually and as a group are remarkable and they’ve help set a solid foundation for what we want our program to look like in the future. It was such a special moment to see Suzanna hit that three when she did to reach the 1,000-point milestone and so neat to see the team respond and share in her accomplishment after the game in the locker room. This has been such a special group of young women and an unforgettable season. It’s been a life changing journey for me and I think the same can be said for all.”
Yoder finished with a double-double recording 29 points to go with 10 rebounds, three assists and two steals. Guttierez-Larios chipped in six points to go with four rebounds and took one charge. Hershberger added five points to go with three assists and five rebounds, while Blauvelt rounded out the scoring with four points to go with six rebounds. Payton Hart pulled down five boards.
IMS finishes the season at 5-17.