The Cascade girls’ basketball team is off and running out of the holiday break as the Cougars earned three wins to improve to 9-4 for the season and now find themselves in second place in the River Valley Conference North Division at 8-3, two games behind Bellevue.

The play of Faith Bower had a lot to do with the Cougars scratching out a 51-49 win over Iowa City Regina, Jan. 5, in Iowa City. Bower went off for a career-high 22 points and it couldn’t have come at a better time since the Regals’ defense was focused on stopping Cascade’s two top scorers, Alyssa Lux (16.2 points per game) and Ally Hoffman (12.8 ppg).

“Faith had a little extra motivation for that game for some reason. We’ve been telling her that’s been in her all year and that’s what we want her to do. She finally did it and it was really needed,” said Ernie Bolibaugh, interim head coach of the Cougars. “They put a big emphasis on stopping Ally and Alyssa, so we needed somebody to step up and she sure did.”

Lux was held to just 11 points, all in the first half, while Ally Hoffman scored just five. However, all five of those points came from the free throw line including the two most important which she made with seven seconds left on the clock to pull out the win for the Cougars.

Cascade also got a huge contribution from Taryn Hoffman who made two three-pointers on her way to scoring eight points in the game, all in the opening half.

Bower scored points in both halves and in many different ways, but most of her damage was done in the second half. She made a basket and two free throws in the first half for four points, but in the final two quarters, she hit 18. Bower scored nine of the team’s 11 points in the third quarter on three two-pointers and a three. In the fourth, she was responsible for nine points on a three-pointer and 6-of-8 from the free throw line.

“We got challenged pretty strong down there and they came back and we just got into it. We hit some clutch free throws late in the game and pulled it out,” said Bolibaugh. “Going into the game, we hadn’t been shooting the best from the outside so we stressed attacking the rim and getting into the lane. (Faith) is really good at that. She’s just had issues with the ball falling through the net. This game she was able to finish. She shot really well from the free throw line and was a big reason we walked out of there with a win.”

Up next for Cascade was another hard-fought 30-22 victory, over Monticello at Cascade, Jan. 8. All night long the Cougars leaned on their defense to hold Monticello scoreless in the first quarter and Monticello didn’t score a point until Gabby Guilford’s basket with under five minutes to play in the second quarter.

Cascade held a 20-7 lead at halftime and they continued to ride the defense to that 30-22 win.

Monticello closed to within three points, 23-20, with three minutes left. A three-pointer by Lux pushed the lead to 26-20 and Ally Hoffman and Bower scored baskets over the final two minutes to close out the game.

“It’s never pretty when we play Monticello. It just means so much to both teams and all the kids,” said Bolibaugh. “We played really well in the first half. We executed and rebounded well. After a tough third quarter, we got back together and turned it around and held strong in the fourth.”

In Durant, Lux scored 22 points and Ally Hoffman had 14 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Cougars to an easy 63-28 win, Jan. 9.

Cascade had a solid first half going into the locker room with a 28-16 lead. But coming out of the break they turned up their defensive pressure to outscore the Wildcats, 35-12, and cruise to the win.

“Our defense is really improving,” said Bolibaugh. “Weber has just been outstanding on the defensive end. She was just flying all over the place to get to coverages when we played Monty, but the defense is going to need to continue to improve as we get deeper into the season.”

Cascade’s statistical leaders against Iowa City Regina were: points — Bower 22, Lux 11, Taryn Hoffman eight, Ally Hoffman five, Sydney Weber three, Megan Smith two; rebounds — Ally Hoffman seven, Taryn Hoffman four, Bower three, Lux two, Weber one; assists — Bower and Smith two, Ally Hoffman and Lux one; steals — Ally Hoffman three, Bower two, Taryn Hoffman and Smith one; blocks — Ally Hoffman and Weber one.

Leading Cascade against Monticello were: points — Lux 11, Ally Hoffman 10, Weber five, Bower and Laura Otting two; rebounds — Ally Hoffman and Weber six, Bower five, Lux four, Taryn Hoffman and Otting one; steals — Bower 11, Lux three, Ally Hoffman two and Smith one.

The Cougars’ leaders against Durant were: points — Lux 22, Ally Hoffman 14, Devin Simon seven, Taryn Hoffman and Weber five, Claudia Noonan four, Bower, Maggie McDermott and Otting two; rebounds — Ally Hoffman 10, Weber five, Bower four, Taryn Hoffman three, Otting and Simon two, Lux, McDermott and Smith one; assists — Taryn Hoffman four, Lux three, Ally Hoffman two, McDermott and Otting one; steals — Ally Hoffman four, McDermott and Smith two, Simon and Weber one; blocks — Ally Hoffman and Lux one.