The IMS girls took down the Iowa Valley Tigers at Hillcrest Union in Round 1 of the Class 1A Region 4 Regionals, 53-45.
IMS jumped on the board first behind a three from senior point guard Suzanna Yoder and she added a free throw moments later after an attack in the open court. Iowa Valley answered with buckets on back to back possessions to take a 5-4 lead, but Yoder knocked down a mid-range jumper off a Mia Graber screen to put IMS back on top. At the end of the first, it was IMS with the 12-9 edge over the Tigers but a back and forth second quarter sent the teams into the locker room knotted at 22-22 at the half.
“I thought we did some really nice things in the first half, but we looked awfully rusty,” IMS head coach Kari Heusinkveld said. “It’s been tough for all teams in the area to get any practices in due to weather and you could kind of see that with missed layups and missed free throws. I thought we did a nice job defensively in spurts, but the intensity needed to be better. Offensively we weren’t crisp enough in our sets coming off screens and we had very few transition buckets to speak of. The emphasis at the break was to pick up the intensity on defense and let that fuel our offense by getting out in the open court.”
IMS came out in the third quarter and executed exactly what was discussed at the break. The home team dug in defensively and turned every defensive rebound and steal into a fast break opportunity. It started with a Yoder pass up court to Yani Gutierrez for a layup, followed up shortly by a Yoder rebound and coast-to-coast layup. Senior Rubye Ney got in on the action moments later when she was fouled on a set piece in the half court and knocked down 1/2 from the line to give IMS a 28-25 lead. On the following possession Ney went down with an ankle injury but it only added fuel to the home teams fire.
IMS dug in defensively and a Yoder rebound led to a quick bucket at the other end. On the next trip down the court, Iowa Valley forced up a quick shot which Graber secured and passed to Yoder. As Yoder pushed the ball up the court, she found a wide-open Gutierrez who knocked down a triple. Moments later the Tigers forced up another tough shot and this time it was Gutierrez who secured the rebound to find Yoder and Graber that was on the receiving end of a half-court pass for another layup. This brought the crowd to its feet and forced another Tiger timeout. Over the final four minutes of the quarter, IMS put together a 12-0 run to give them a 40-25 lead headed into the final stanza.
Iowa Valley jumped on the board first in the fourth after being held scoreless for over five minutes and rattled off nine unanswered points. This 9-0 run closed the gap to six which prompted an IMS timeout. Out of the timeout, IMS answered with back to back buckets to push the lead back to 44-34, but the Tigers answered with a 5-0 run to close the gap to three. With 3:34 left in regulation and a 44-41 lead, IMS took another full timeout to regroup.
IMS was patient offensively with the lead and as the Tigers tried to pressure and steal the ball, they fouled Yoder and sent her to the line where she knocked down a pair of free throws. The home team dropped back for an important defensive stand, and on a Tiger drive, Ney knocked the ball free to Yoder who took it to the house to give them a 48-41 lead. IMS closed out the game from the charity stripe over the final minutes.
“I loved the way we stayed locked in tonight,” IMS head coach Kari Heusinkveld said. “We put together another signature third-quarter run which was great to see, but what I’m most proud of is the way we handled ourselves down the stretch. We can’t let other teams go on such big runs and there are obviously some things we need to clean up defensively before we head into the next round, but it was great to see us respond the way we did. At this time of the year, you have to gut it out, you have to expect tight games and you have to just flat out find ways to win. It’s win or go home, and we’re not ready for our season to be over.”
Yoder led IMS with 39 points, five assists, four steals, and eight rebounds. Gutierrez added nine points to go with two steals, one assist, and seven rebounds. Graber added four points, two steals, an assist and three rebounds while Ney rounded out the scoring with a free throw, three steals, and four rebounds.
IMS (10-10) advances to the second round of Regionals on Tuesday, February 12th to play Lynnville Sully (16-3). The game will be played at Lynnville Sully with tipoff set for 7 PM.