Precisely nine months passed between the Waverly-Shell Rock girls basketball team's first-round departure from the 2019 Class 4A state tournament on Feb. 26 and its 2019-20 season opener on Tuesday night.
Fittingly, the Go-Hawks began their season against the same team they lost to in those quarterfinals last season: Mason City.
So Tuesday was a chance for revenge, a chance to begin the season with a resounding win against a ranked opponent.
Despite pulling within six points near the end, the Go-Hawks fell to the Mohawks 57-49 at Waverly-Shell Rock High School.
No. 8 W-SR begins its season 0-1, and No. 13 Mason City improved its perfect record to 3-0.
The loss came despite a banner performance from junior center Abbie Draper, who dropped 27 points Tuesday, a game high. Junior Jaeda Whitner led the Mohawks in scoring.
"We knew they were good," W-SR coach Greg Bodensteiner said. "The way that they play has always been a struggle for us. And we haven’t been able to find a way. But we’re there. We had a chance."
That they did.
Waverly-Shell Rock trailed by as much as 17 points in the third quarter, yet when crunch time came, the Go-Hawks were back in it and were able to cut the deficit to 6 points with less than 2 minutes left.
But when it came down to it, there weren't enough offensive solutions for W-SR, which struggled to find scoring options outside of Draper.
"We missed a few easy shots, they hit some real tough ones," Bodensteiner said. "They had some kids finishing shots around the rim that were real creative. Hats off to them. We did everything we could to give ourselves chance."
Right from the start, it was easy to see Draper would have her way all night. The 6-foot-2 junior scored the Go-Hawks' first six points and had 15 of the team's 18 points after the first quarter.
Her inside scoring and a tough layup from senior Britney Young gave W-SR an early 8-0 lead, but then the floodgates opened for the Mohawks once they implemented their full-court press.
Mason City went on a 14-2 run after forcing W-SR turnovers, and Whitner started draining 3 pointers like she was Steph Curry.
By the time halftime came, Mason City was leading 35-25, and Whitner had 14 points and three treys.
Things only got worse for Waverly-Shell Rock in the third quarter, as a bucket from sophomore Emma Hollander pushed Mason City's lead to 47-30.
However, junior Siri Ott hit an important 3 to cut the deficit to 49-38 heading into the fourth quarter.
The Go-Hawks outscored their opponent 11-8 in the final period, but their comeback fell short by just a few rungs.
A layup from Sasha Wilson even cut it to 53-47 with 1 minute, 45 seconds left, but Mason City then hit two free throws to put the game virtually out of reach.
Though you certainly never want a season to begin with a defeat, the Go-Hawks showed they can hang with a tough opponent and not let a huge deficit drown them.
"I thought we learned a lot tonight," Bodensteiner said. "I think we learned a lot about what we can and can’t do offensively, and how to defend a really good team. We’re not going to play a lot of teams that have five kids who can score like that."
Coach Bodensteiner might be right, but that doesn't mean the competition is getting easier.
Waverly-Shell Rock's next game comes on the road at Center Point-Urbana, the third-ranked team in Class 4A. Then comes a matchup with Dubuque Hempstead, a tough Class 5A team.
"It’s going to be a tough start," Bodensteiner said. "We’re going to have to earn them. In the long run, though, it pays off because it pushes us ahead early in the year."
Wilson tweaks ankle
Midway through the third quarter Tuesday night, starting guard Sasha Wilson tweaked her ankle and had to be helped off the court.
Bodensteiner said Wilson went back to the training room to have the ankle looked at, but the junior was back on the court and helping push W-SR's comeback midway through the fourth quarter.
"I thought Sasha played really well," the coach said.