Monday night in Waverly brought another win for the Go-Hawk girls basketball team, but this particular one is a bit special.
W-SR defeated Clear Lake 58-35 in the Go-Hawk Gym, and in the moments following the game, head coach Greg Bodensteiner was asked to compare the win to the seven others that have come this season.
The coach let out a slight chuckle and was quite transparent.
"This is the best win we’ve gotten this year," Bodensteiner said. "I don’t think there’s any question."
Clear Lake is ranked second in Class 3A, and with No. 1 North Polk's loss to Ballard last Friday, the Lions had a shot at moving into the first spot if they'd won Monday.
Clear Lake was undefeated at 7-0 coming to Waverly, with six players scoring at least six points per game.
And yet the Go-Hawks won emphatically, outscoring the Lions 30-12 in the second half to rout one of the top teams in 3A.
"We played pretty well," Bodensteiner said. "Our three keys were: we’ve got to defend really well and slow down (Sara) Faber, take care of the basketball, and be patient and make them defend us offensively. I think our kids did a really good job with those three things."
"We played really well," junior center Abbie Draper said. "We shut everyone down on defense and that’s what really got us going. We all got motivated."
A win like Monday's does a lot for a team like Waverly-Shell Rock.
It pushes the Go-Hawks to 8-2 this season, and the team hasn't lost a game since starting the year 0-2. It gives W-SR a chance at moving up in Thursday's Class 4A rankings. It also provides the girls experience against a top-notch opponent.
But the win also brings something else, more on the macro level.
It gives Waverly-Shell Rock a glimpse at what is possible when the team is firing on all cylinders.
It allows the Go-Hawks to imagine what they're capable of, not just in the regular season, but when the regional and state tournaments arrive.
"Tonight’s a pretty big boost I think, confidence-wise and with the ability for our kids to think about what’s possible with this group," Bodensteiner said. "We hadn’t gotten that win over a really good team. I don’t know what it does for our confidence, but it can’t hurt it."
"We definitely are improving as the season is going on," Draper said. "We’re all connecting and finally playing as a team."
Draper led the team in scoring with 19 points, and senior point guard Britney Young was right behind with 17 points of her own. Role player Annika Behrends contributed seven points.
Though Waverly-Shell Rock ended up winning by 23 points, the game was contentious midway through, mostly thanks to Clear Lake's permiter shooting.
Faber, the Lions' leading scorer with 18 points per game, started the game with a layup — it would be their only 2-point basket in the half. Clear Lake then hit seven 3s before halftime.
If it weren't for a couple of key 3-pointers from Young, things might have gotten away from W-SR early. But a trey from junior Kenzie Rolling and two free throws from Draper had the Go-Hawks ahead 28-23 at the break.
"They’re a really good permiter shooting team," Bodensteiner said. "I felt like we needed to contest the 3 the best we could but keep the ball in front on the dribble. We wanted to make sure we weren’t giving up layups on the dribble."
The game busted open in the third quarter, as Young and Draper both hit 3s right after halftime. Waverly-Shell Rock would outscore Clear Lake 15-5 in the quarter and take a commanding 43-28 lead.
The fourth quarter was all W-SR as well, as the team outscored the Lions 15-7 in the final quarter.
"We didn’t turn it over as much in the second half," Bodensteiner said. "We had some untimely turnovers in the first half that led to quick scores for them. Offensively, we were a little bit more composed and patient and got some better shots.
"When you get a lead and start to stretch it out, we made them do things they didn’t want to do."
The W-SR team that played Monday night didn't show much weaknesses, but Bodensteiner mentioned he wants his team performing better from the free throw line in the future.
The Go-Hawks will host Crestwood (11-1), the second ranked team in Class 3A, on Friday night in Waverly.