ELDORA - A fan in the stands of Tuesday night's North Iowa Cedar League West Division girls' basketball game between South Hardin and Gladbrook-Reinbeck couldn't tell that the Tigers were coming off one of their worst offensive performances of the season a few days earlier.
South Hardin hit just 13-of-39 from the floor and missed 14 free throws in dropping its first game of the season last Friday, but that didn't put a dent in the Tigers' confidence.
Connecting on five 3-pointers in the first quarter helped South Hardin forget about its last outing and pushed the Tigers toward another win in conference play. The home team jumped out to a 19-2 lead before withstanding a late Gladbrook-Reinbeck rally during a 63-51 victory.
South Hardin’s Sarah Boomgarden shoots between G-R defenders Hanna Christopher, left, and Amber Berendes (25) during Tuesday’s NICL West Division contest in Eldora.
Photo by Troy Hyde
"We did a lot of nice things in that first quarter," South Hardin coach Matt Thompson said. "Our main thing is to get out and push the ball and get steals. We had 16 steals tonight and when that happens we get transition buckets and that helps us out."
It was the Kassidy Bunger show early in the game. The Tiger junior gave her team an early lift with a trio of triples in the first six minutes of the game. Sarah Boomgarden and Kayla Prosser also buried 3-pointers in the first quarter and the Tigers led 21-10 after one.
Prosser's only points during South Hardin's 19-2 start was that triple. She caught up to her teammates though with strong second and third quarters and finished with a game-high 18 points on the night. She also had nine rebounds and three assists.
"The last game we played, it felt wrong. We weren't in sync," Prosser said. "We are good about reading. We know where everyone is going to be. Tonight, we were in rhythm. We have a deep team. We have other players who will step up no matter what the defense gives us."
Bunger scored nine of her 15 points in that first quarter. She hit back-to-back buckets inside the lane in the second quarter that gave the Tigers a 25-14 lead.
"Bunger was hitting them right away," Thompson said. "When we can spread the floor and push the ball, it allows us to find those open shooters on the outside."
The Rebels though refused to quit at any point in the game. They narrowed the gap to 10 at halftime thanks in large part to an effective full-court press that led to several easy buckets.
"Other than the first six minutes, we played well," G-R coach Eric Crandall said. "We got it back to being manageable, but South Hardin has a good team and you can't afford to fall behind them. They are used to being ahead."
The Rebels stayed within single digits until the closing minutes of the third quarter. But South Hardin put the game away with eight consecutive points. Prosser started the spurt with a bucket and two free throws and then Claire Damon ended the frame with a steal and a short jumper that put the Tigers up 52-35 heading into the fourth quarter.
Gladbrook-Reinbeck (4-7, 1-6) made another run in the fourth quarter to make things interesting. After Kayla Anderson and Britney Keller traded 3-pointers, the Rebels went on a 12-2 run to get within seven with 1:40 to play. Ellie Stoakes sparked the run with six points, but four consecutive free throws from Haley Lawrence and Prosser and then a bucket from Boomgarden made it a 13-point game.
"We wanted to focus on Prosser a little bit tonight, but she still got 18," Crandall said. "They've got good balance though and they all shoot with confidence."
Bunger added six rebounds and four steals to her 15 points, while Boomgarden added 12 points, five steals and three assists. Lawrence scored eight points and grabbed five boards in the win.
"When we can get three girls in double digits and someone else close, it is hard for teams to know who to guard," Thompson said. "We did well on the block tonight."
The Rebels were short-handed after two players missed the contest with injuries. Amber Berendes, a key contributor off the bench, was forced to miss the game with a shoulder injury, while Lauren Husmann injured her ankle during the junior varsity game.
"We were a little short handed tonight. We were real thin, inside especially," Crandall said. "Amber has been in and out of the lineup all year and has worn a shoulder sleeve all season. She should be able to play Friday night, but we had to go to battle with who we had available tonight."
Keller picked up some of the scoring void left by Berendes as she finished with a team-high 16 points and also grabbed eight rebounds. Hayley Weber added 10 points and five rebounds, while Hanna Christopher scored nine and pulled down five boards and Stoakes chipped in eight and five, respectively. Nicole Adair also went for four points, six rebounds and five steals in the loss.