DES MOINES - There weren’t too many among the media covering the class 1A girls state basketball tournament who felt eighth-seeded Springville stood any chance of being able to play with top-seeded and No. 1 ranked Algona Bishop Garrigan in a quarter-final contest Wednesday, March 3, in Des Moines.
In fact, many of them were certain the Orioles were going to get blown right off the Wells Fargo Arena floor.
O, ye of little faith.
“No one thought we had a chance of even being able to give Bishop Garrigan a game, not to mention beat them,” said Oriole junior Lauren Wilson, who scored a team-high 13 points in the state contest. “We had faith in our own abilities and knew that not only we could play with them and give them a game, but we could beat them.
“I think we proved a lot of people wrong.”
The Springville girls did exactly that, as with 1:45 to play in the game the Orioles trailed by just two points (41-39), but a 7-3 run by the Golden Bears to close the game ended Springville’s season with a bitter 48-42 defeat.
“I thought we played a really well,” said junior Grace Matus, who finished with nine points.
“We followed our game plan and played some really good defense. We never gave up thinking we could win the game, and we had our chances all the way to the end.”
The game started much like the prognosticators thought it would, with Bishop Garrigan racing to a big 14-5 lead before the Orioles began to settle in.
“I think we came out a bit timid and didn’t attack the basket like we usually do,” said Springville girls basketball coach Christina Zaruba, as her team trailed 12-5 after one quarter of play before the Golden Bears scored the first basket of the second stanza to take a nine-point advantage.
“It gets into your head when they have a 6-foot girl (Audi Crooks) standing there right at the basket, and it took us a little while to get over that and play our game. Once we did that, and we settled into things much better from the second quarter on, it was a game.”
Morgan Nachazel started the run drilling a 3-pointer at the 4:38 mark of the second quarter pulling the Orioles to within six points at 14-8 before Wilson scored back-to-back baskets to make it a two-point deficit with 3:44 to play (14-12).
After Wilson added a free throw, the Springville girls were within a point at 14-13 and brimming with confidence.
“We just kept going at them,” Wilson said. “They kept fouling us, and we did a much better job of making free throws than we did at the end of the Burlington Notre Dame game.”
Freshman Hannah March added a basket and Matus hit four free throws inside the final 1:47 of the first half and Springville trailed just 23-19 at the half.
The fun was just getting started.
Wilson opened the second half with a quick basket and the Orioles were right back within two (23-21) before Bishop Garrigan, fueled by Crooks and Molly Joyce, went on a 4-0 run to take a 27-21 lead.
But back came Springville, again.
Savannah Nealman hit two free throws before Matus splashed down an extremely deep 3-pointer, and in the blink of an eye, the Orioles were once again within a point at 27-26.
“I told Grace to take that 3,” said Zaruba, as Matus launched the shot from three feet behind the arc. “When Grace is open, I want her shooting the ball and shooting it with confidence. We all have confidence in her ability to get hot and go on a run. We’ve seen her do it before, and we knew she could do it again.”
Two minutes after Matus’ trey, Nachazel drilled another handing Springville their first lead of the game, 29-27, at the 3:27 mark.
“That was such a huge shot by Morgan,” Zaruba said. “I think we had already gotten Bishop Garrigan’s attention with the way we were getting after it, but that shot by Morgan that gave us the lead for the first time, I think they knew this was going to be a battle.”
After Crooks scored a lay-up to knot the score at 29-29, March got free at the rim and scored to give the Orioles another lead with 2:23 to play in the quarter.
Unfortunately, it would be their last of the game.
“Hannah had the game of her life,” Zaruba said. “She really stepped up and gave us energy off the bench, on both ends of the floor. For a freshman to come into that environment and play the way she did was impressive.”
Crooks and Joyce followed with baskets for the Golden Bears before March answered back knotting the score at 33-33 with 2:10 left before Bishop Garrigan closed the quarter on a 4-0 run to take a 37-33 lead into the final frame.
“All we wanted was a chance, and we gave ourselves one,” Zaruba said. “But in the end Bishop Garrigan just made more shots than we did. We got the looks we wanted in the fourth quarter, they just didn’t go down.”
Crooks stretched the Golden Bears’ lead to six points (39-33) opening the fourth quarter with a quick basket, but Wilson converted an and-1 with 5:36 to play pulling the Orioles to within three at 39-36 before Wilson and Matus converted at the free throw line to keep Springville close.
Joyce and Reese Rosenmeyer iced the win for Bishop Garrigan from the free throw line in the game’s final 1:20 going 7-for-10.
Crooks, the powerful Bishop Garrigan post, just proved to be too tough scoring a game-high 25 points converting on 12 of her 13 shots in the game.
“We knew she (Crooks) was going to get her 20 points and 10 rebounds, and she did,” Zaruba said. “But we needed to slow down everyone else, and we were just about able to do that.”
Stamp, Nachazel and March each added six points to the Springville offense while Wilson ripped down nine rebounds.
“Yes, we were extremely disappointed,” Zaruba said. “But the girls should not hang their heads, they played hard and made a statement to everyone that this little eighth-seeded team was every bit as good as the top-seeded team. We did what we needed to do, and just about did something no one thought we could. Well, no one but ourselves.”
The Orioles close another outstanding season with a 21-5 overall record.