ANAMOSA - If there was any question as to how the Anamosa girls basketball team was going to come out and play in their class 3A regional quarter-final contest against visiting Camanche Saturday, Feb. 15, the Raiders answered it almost immediately.
And everyone in the Anamosa High School gym sure enjoyed that they saw.
“Well, there sure wasn’t any letdown after the great Bellevue-Marquette performance four days earlier,” said Anamosa girls basketball coach Doug Arnold, as his team held the Indians scoreless for the game’s first seven minutes in rolling to an impressive 54-43 triumph that kept their 2019-20 season alive.
“We mixed up defenses and the girls pressure the ball so well we were able to get a lot of turnovers that led to run-outs and some easy lay-ups that allowed us to get a nice early lead. Honestly, our lead could have been even bigger if we could have converted on so many more easy opportunities at the rim, then we would have really had things in hand.”
If there were any nerves from the young Anamosa (5-16) team, you sure couldn’t tell it as the Raiders raced to a 10-0 advantage as Maddy Heims and Cecilia Venenga sparked the first quarter run as the hosts led 13-5 at the horn.
“We just kept up with the pressure all game long and it really frustrated Camanche,” Arnold said. “They are a really good 3-point shooting team and we were able to limit their looks from distance and were able to make them pretty uncomfortable on the court.”
Anamosa however, looked smooth as ever using a 14-8 second quarter run, keyed by long treys from Maggie McQuillen and Venenga, to take a 27-13 lead into the halftime break.
Coming out of the half the Raiders took complete control of the contest stretching their advantage to as many as 20 points (44-24) at the third quarter horn, before momentum gradually began to shift.
“Down the stretch in the fourth quarter I think we played not to lose instead of to win,” said Arnold, as the Indians cut the Anamosa lead to single digits (45-37) with four-minutes to play as Camanche went on a 13-1 spurt.
“Things definitely got a little too interesting there at the end, but the girls, to their credit, were able to finish this one out and get the win.”
Leading 47-38 with three-minutes remaining, Venenga connected for a 3-pointer that seemed to stead the tide and allowed the Raiders to make free throws over the game’s final minute to seal the playoff victory.
“C.C. hitting that three was huge for us, and a backbreaker for Camanche,” Arnold said. “We were struggling to score and really seemed out of sync there for a while offensively, but I was so glad to see her take and hit that big shot. It wasn’t rushed and it came in the rhythm of the offense. Not too bad for a sophomore playing in her first-ever playoff game.”
Heims and Venenga clinched the win from the charity stripe in the final seconds as Anamosa advances to face 10th-ranked Davenport Assumption Wednesday, Feb. 19, in Davenport.
“You wouldn’t have known it, but the kids were actually a little nervous coming into this playoff game,” Arnold said. “Other than Maggie, Maddy and Grace (Lubben), no one else had actually played in the post-season. For the girls this game was a big deal. They put a lot of pressure on themselves to get this win, and they sure went out and got the job done.”
Venenga had a huge night scoring a game-high 17 points off the bench while Heims added 14 more. McQuillen connected three times from beyond the 3-point arc finishing with nine points while also coming through with 10 rebounds, six steals and six assists completing her brilliant final home career as a Raider. Banowetz came through with five points, seven rebounds, three steals and two assists.
“This being the last home game of my basketball career, I did not want to walk off the court with a loss,” McQuillen said. “I wanted to make sure I gave all my effort and just give my team the best chance we had to win.
“Even though it hasn’t been the best year for us as far as our record goes this season, I didn’t want it to end. For me, this was the perfect home ending. Hopefully we can go to Davenport Assumption and keep this feeling going.”