Stagnant for 3 quarters, Lynx mount furious rally that falls short

WCHS sophomore Kelly Stoakes (left) and CGD junior Morgan Middleton wrestle for a loose ball in the fourth quarter on Tuesday. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

CLARION — Are you an optimist or a pessimist? Which direction you sway will likely determine how you view the performance of the Webster City girls’ basketball team Tuesday night.

The optimistic viewpoint — trailing by as many as 23 points in the second half, the Lynx clawed all the way back to within five in the waning moments of a 50-42 loss to North Central Conference rival Clarion-Goldfield-Dows.

The pessimistic viewpoint — where in the heck was that fourth-quarter effort in the initial three quarters?

WCHS head coach Nicole Muhlenbruch found herself leaning in both directions, if that’s even possible, following her team’s loss.

“We played one quarter of basketball,” she said. “Yes, we came back. We had fight, we didn’t hang our heads and we didn’t give up, but yet you wonder why weren’t we doing that in the first three quarters?”

WCHS forward Adalie Schwandt (44) has her shot challenged by CGD’s Kendall Lienemann (20) during the first half on Tuesday in Clarion. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

Following a five-game winning streak in January, WCHS (8-10, 5-7 NCC) has now dropped its last four outings. Those four foes — fourth-ranked (Class 3A) Clear Lake, No. 15 (3A) Hampton-Dumont/CAL, No. 8 (4A) Gilbert and CGD — have a combined record of 61-12.

Sleepy, stagnant, sluggish, stuck in the mud — take your pick to describe WCHS in the first half against CGD (14-5, 8-4 NCC), as the Cowgirls raced out to a 29-13 advantage.

CGD center Morgan Middleton repeatedly gained inside position on the low block and poured in 12 first-half points. She had six field goals, while the Lynx had just four, over the opening 16 minutes.

“We knew we couldn’t let her set up where she wanted to because she’s tough down low,” Muhlenbruch said of Middleton, who finished with a game-high 16 points. “We needed to dictate where she set up, but that just didn’t happen.”

CGD reeled off seven consecutive points to open the second half, which increased the margin to 23, 36-13. Muhlenbruch had seen enough; she benched all five starters for the next 3 minutes, 15 seconds.

DFJ photo/Troy Banning

“I was mad because they weren’t attacking like the coaches were asking them to do,” Muhlenbruch said. “I wanted them to know I was upset about the way they were playing, but I also wanted them to watch the defense to see where the openings were.”

Trailing by 21 points after three quarters, WCHS outscored the Cowgirls 25-12 over the final eight minutes. Limited to just two first-half shots and four through three quarters, Taylor McKinney finally got going with a pair of early 3-point bombs from well behind the arc.

A Kelly Stoakes offensive rebound and put back pulled the Lynx within 13 with 3:40 remaining. And as the clock ticked under two minutes, WCHS began a 7-0 run that ended with a Leah Kasch 3 from the corner to get the Lynx within 47-42 with 17.4 seconds remaining.

CGD rattled in 3 of 4 free throws down the stretch to put the game on ice.

McKinney scored 14 points, 12 of which came over the game’s final 10 minutes, to lead WCHS. Grace Hoversten was the only Lynx player with more than two first-half points and she finished with 13. Kasch added seven and two steals, while Stoakes registered four points and five boards.

DFJ photo/Troy Banning

Had the Lynx figured out how to attack CGD’s 1-2-2 zone defense earlier, who knows what would have happened. A better performance at the free throw line (8 of 20) would have helped too.

Muhlenbruch is hopeful the fourth quarter effort will springboard her team into Friday’s league tilt against Iowa Falls-Alden inside the WCHS gymnasium at 6:15 p.m.

“The last time we played Iowa Falls, we came back in the fourth quarter and played really well, and then went on that five-game run,” she said. “So hopefully we can do that again.”

CGD 50, Webster City 42

Tuesday at Clarion

DFJ photo/Troy Banning

Webster City (8-10, 5-7 NCC) — Tatum Goings 0 0-0 0, Taylor McKinney 5 2-2 14, Kelly Stoakes 1 2-6 4, Kayley Wibholm 0 0-0 0, Leah Kasch 3 0-1 7, Morgan Gallentine 0 0-0 0, Kaylyn Anderson 0 0-0 0, Grace Hoversten 4 4-7 13, Jenna Miller 0 0-3 0, Adalie Schwandt 2 0-1 4. Totals: 15 8-20 42.

CGD (14-5, 8-4 NCC) — Jadyn Jondle 2 0-0 4, Raven Kinnetz 5 2-2 15, Emma Conlon 0 3-4 3, Kendall Lienemann 1 0-0 2, Quinn Hansch 3 0-0 8, Courtney Harle 1 0-0 2, Emma Keller 0 0-0 0, Morgan Middleton 8 0-0 16. Totals: 20 5-6 50.

Web. City 6 7 4 25 — 42

CGD 13 16 9 12 — 50

3-point field goals — WC 4 (McKinney 2, Kasch, Hoversten); CGD 5 (Kinnetz 3, Hansch 2). Rebounds — WC 23 (Miller 6, Stoakes 5). Steals — WC 5 (Kasch 2). Assists — WC 2. Turnovers — WC 14. Team fouls — WC 12, CGD 16. Fouled out — CGD: Jondle, Harle.