Closing That Gap

Lynx give No. 7 Boone a scare in season opener

Webster City senior Cassidy Nerland lays in the lap of Boone center Claire Sandvig after the two wrestled for a loose ball during the fourth quarter on Saturday. The Lynx put a scare into the seventh-ranked (Class 4A) Toreadors, but ultimately lost, 45-40. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

WEBSTER CITY — Let’s face it, as season openers go, the now six-year experiment against Boone has mostly been a dud, loaded with quickly out of hand games and lopsided scores.

Boone by 13 points. Boone by 25. Boone by 26. Boone by 21. Boone by 23.

Yeah, you get the point.

So forgive Webster City girls’ basketball head coach Nicole Muhlenbruch and her players if they walked away with a little giddyup in their steps following the most recent encounter. Nope, it wasn’t a victory, but the Lynx certainly showed that they’ve closed the gap.

Trailing by as many as 14 points in the second half, Webster City mounted a furious fourth-quarter comeback loaded with big buckets and floor burns that made Boone fans shift uncomfortably in their seats Saturday afternoon inside the WCHS gymnasium. The seventh-ranked (Class 4A) Toreadors were able to exhale when they exited with a 45-40 win, but the optimism was off the charts for the Lynx.

WCHS junior guard Zoey Woodle (20) drives to the basket during the second half against Boone on Saturday. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

“We played very well. There was a big size difference, but we did what we had to do,” WCHS sophomore sharpshooter Taylor McKinney said after pouring in a team-high 15 points, including seven in the final period that saw the Lynx outscore Boone 11-5. “We have a big season coming up and this was a good first step.”

Yes it was.

Despite giving up a good four inches to Boone all-state center Claire Sandvig, WCHS senior Cassidy Nerland fought and clawed her way to 12 points and 15 rebounds. Halle Mason got hot in the second half and dropped in all seven of her points to go along with eight rebounds, and Sarah Vogelbacher hit a pair of early jumpers for four points.

Sandvig, a four-year thorn in the Lynx side, and speedy guard Caitlynne Shadle both cashed in for 15 points for Boone. But WCHS limited talented freshman Emma Dighton to just seven points; Dighton went off for 20 in the Toreadors’ season-opening 51-49 victory over 10th-ranked (3A) Nevada last Tuesday.

Nerland’s statistical bonanza — she also finished with a pair of steals and assists — helped WCHS at both ends of the floor. The Lynx actually out rebounded the Toreadors, 33-28.

Webster City point guard Taylor McKinney (4) faces a double team by Boone’s Claire Sandvig (40) and Aliyah Graham (22) during the first half on Saturday inside the WCHS gym. McKinney scored 15 points in the Lynx 45-40 loss to the No. 7-ranked Toreadors. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

“(Sandvig) is way bigger than me, but you can still put up a fight,” Nerland said. “This is huge for us. We don’t have many wins under our belts (over the last few years), but it showed what we really can do. It’s our time to show teams what we’ve got.”

Muhlenbruch was equally upbeat afterwards. She had her team humming as it got within five points on a deep step-back 3-pointer from McKinney with 2:25 remaining. WCHS had multiple opportunities to whittle it down to a one-possession game down the stretch, but twice turned the ball over and missed the front end of a one-and-one on two occasions.

The Lynx finished with 16 turnovers, but forced 14 by the Toreadors.

“We talked about how we wanted to give ourselves a chance to win the ballgame and throughout the first quarter we really did that,” Muhlenbruch said of the 8-minute stretch that saw the adversaries battle in a 9-all draw. “We know every game we’re going to be out-sized, but (the players) compensate for it with their toughness. Now we need to fix some of those silly mistakes that we’re making and not get ourselves into a hole.”

Boone seized the upper hand in the second quarter and built a 10-point halftime lead, 28-18. A triple on the wing from McKinney put WCHS in front 14-11 with 6:40 left in the half, but the Toreadors answered with nine straight points and then put together an 8-2 spurt over the final 3:10.

WCHS senior Halle Mason (10) scores over Boone’s Caitlynne Shadle midway through the third quarter on Saturday. Mason had seven points and eight rebounds in the game. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

An aggressive, trapping zone by Boone caused the Lynx fits in the second and the Toreadors scored six points in transition off turnovers.

Shadle, a match-up nightmare because of her athleticism and strength, rattled off five consecutive points early in the third quarter to help the Toreadors build their biggest lead, 37-23.

Mason and Nerland dropped in back-to-back baskets to cut it to 10.

WCHS made its move over the final 5:54 of the fourth, starting with a pair of Mason free throws, and then McKinney went to work.

A jumper from the free throw line. A runner off one foot in the lane. And then came the bomb from long range, her third 3 of the contest.

Lynx sophomore Grace Hoversten (facing) looks for an open teammate as Boone’s Madlyn Danner (10) applies the pressure in the corner. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

“You’re going to miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take,” McKinney, speaking like a true shooters, said. “When you’re missing, it doesn’t matter. They’ll fall eventually.”

WCHS shot 36 percent from the field overall, but just 27 percent from behind the arc (4 of 15).

Zoey Woodle didn’t score, but the junior gave the Lynx a spark off the bench, particularly at the defensive end where she blanketed Shadle over the final 12 minutes. Grace Hoversten provided her own dose of team adrenaline in the fourth quarter with one bucket and numerous hustle plays going after her four rebounds.

“We got that spark off the bench from Zoey and Grace, and Sarah got us off to a great start as well,” Muhlenbruch said. “And Cassidy just battled, I don’t know how else you can say it. When you’re battling down there and only have three fouls, I think that just shows guts.”

What’s now important for WCHS is bottling all of the goodwill it compiled and using it on Tuesday when it welcomes two-time defending 3A state champion Pocahontas Area to town. The Indians will look drastically different though; they graduated all five starters off last year’s club, including the state’s all-time leading scorer and 2017 Miss Basketball Elle Ruffridge.

Boone 45, Webster City 40

Saturday at Webster City

Boone (2-0) — Madlyn Danner 3 0-2 6, Caitlynne Shadle 6 2-4 15, Aliyah Graham 1 0-0 2, Lauren Calkins 0 0-0 0, Emma Dighton 3 1-1 7, Claire Sandvig 7 1-3 15. Totals: 20 4-10 45.

Webster City (0-1) — Haley Flaws 0 0-0 0, Taylor McKinney 6 0-0 15, Halle Mason 2 2-2 7, Sarah Vogelbacher 2 0-0 4, Zoey Woodle 0 0-1 0, Grace Hoversten 1 0-0 2, Cassidy Nerland 5 2-4 12. Totals: 16 4-7 40.

Boone 9 19 12 5 — 45

Webster City 9 9 11 11 — 40

3-point field goals — Boone 1 (Shadle); WC 4 (McKinney 3, Mason). Rebounds — Boone 28, WC 33 (Nerland 15, Mason 8, Hoversten 4). Steals — WC 3 (Nerland 2). Assists — WC 6 (Nerland 2). Turnovers — Boone 14, WC 16. Team fouls — Boone 13, WC 13. Fouled out — none.