Nicole McDermott scored 18 of her game-high 26 points in the first half and Abby Welter tallied all 12 of hers in the second half lead the Cascade girls’ basketball team to a hard-fought, 60-48, come from behind win over Beckman in Cascade, Dec. 21.
“Everybody thinks that we’re all special because we’re ranked No. 1, but in all honesty, and I tell the kids this all the time and I think everyone should start listening, but there are a lot better teams that are out there,” said Mike Sconsa, head coach of the Cougars. “Beckman has all the skills to beat us. They have size. They are very well-coached. They execute very well. They controlled the pace and they beat us up. They played an outstanding game and we were fortunate to come out with a win.”
This game was a 32-minute battle between two teams that wanted to jump out of the gym with a win. In the first quarter, a physical Beckman squad showed the Cougars that they were going to have to earn every point they scored. Defensively, they were rough at the rim and offensively they had no problem breaking Cascade’s press which meant no cheap buckets on steals near the opponent’s goal. Neither team was able to gain control of the game until Beckman made a move to make some separation. Up 12-10 after the first quarter, Lauren Osterhaus’ three pushed the lead to five, 15-10. Ally Hoffman scored in the paint on an assist by Jordan Simon to make it 15-12, but two free throws by Paige McDermott and a lay-up by Ashley Engelken put Beckman up by seven at 19-12.
Stuck in the water offensively and having trouble pushing the ball up court to get easy baskets, Nicole McDermott made her presence felt by taking over the Cougars’ attack. She splashed her third three of the game to cut the lead to 19-15 midway through the second quarter.
Paige McDermott converted a conventional three-point play and on Beckman’s next possession she scored in the paint after pulling down an offensive rebound that stretched the lead to nine, 24-15.
With 1:52 left in the first half, Nicole McDermott made her “and one” after being fouled on a drive to the basket to make it 24-18. Engelken popped in a three-pointer and then made both ends of a one and one to give the Blazers their biggest lead of the game at 29-18.
Needing to cut into that double-digit lead before halftime, Nicole McDermott sandwiched two threes around a free throw by Kennedy Arens as Cascade raced into the locker room down but not out trailing, 30-24.
“Only being down six helped a lot. We prepared for their zone, but until you play against it it’s totally something different. Things look open, but they’re really not,” said Sconsa. “They controlled everything. They beat us all over the place in the first half. We went in (at halftime) calmly told the kids to relax and the game changed in the second half.”
Threes continue to rain for the Cougars as freshman Alyssa Lux dropped a three with 6:15 left in the third and 105 seconds later Faith Bower tied the score at 30 with her only three points. While Cascade’s offense was heating up, so with their toughness as they held Beckman scoreless for almost the first five minutes of the second half.
Welter got involved in the Cougars’ offense as one of the main forces battling in the paint. She might have only made two of six free throws in a minute, but her second make gave Cascade their first lead of the game since Jordan Simon’s three made it 7-4 with 2:30 to go in the first quarter.
Welter continued to play hard making a basket after pulling down an offensive rebound on back-to-back possessions to grow Cascade’s lead to 36-31.
Arens’ buzzer-beating three helped Beckman survive the quarter. Even though they were outscored 12-4, they went into the final eight minutes of play down by just two points, 36-34.
Beckman continued to fight in the fourth quarter and tied the game at 40-40 on Olivia Pirc’s basket with under five minutes to play. From that point in the game, Cascade made 11 of 13 free throws to put the game out of reach as they held on for a 60-48 win.
“In a way, we grinded it out, which is probably more in our DNA than anything,” said Sconsa. “I’m proud of the kids. In the second half, we played well. I can tell you that Beckman is going to be a team that 2A schools are not going to want to see too often. They are a really, really good basketball team.”
The challenges for Cascade, the number-one ranked team in Class 2A, continue right after the break as they travel to West Liberty, Jan. 3 to take on the undefeated Comets who are 7-0 for the year, 6-0 in the River Valley South and ranked 12 in Class 3A.
“It’s still pretty early,” said Sconsa. “We gotta continue to get better and stay hungry.”
Cascade’s leaders were: points — McDermott 26, Welter 12, Skylar Dolphin eight, Ally Hoffman five, Bower, Lux and Jordan Simon three; rebounds — Welter 11, Hoffman seven, McDermott five, Simon three, Dolphin two, Bower and Lux one; assists — Jordan Simon four, Dolphin, Hoffman, McDermott and Welter two, Bower one; steals — Welter four, Hoffman three, Dolphin and Lux two, McDermott and Simon one; blocks – Simon two, McDermott Welter one.