DENVER — Any postseason victory is sweet, but when ice cream is added to the mix, that makes it much sweeter.
That’s how it went for the Wapsie Valley girls’ basketball team on Saturday night. The Warriors defeated Denver, 51-45, in a Class 2A Region 3 opener, and then one of the coaches brought in boxes of Dairy Queen Dilly Bars, and the players went nuts.
“Coach (Austin) Jeans brought them into the locker room, and we all kind of freaked out for Dilly Bars,” said Wapsie power forward Erin Riordan, who scored 20 points on the night.
Riordan connected on 8-for-12 from the floor, while Kaci Beesecker had a quiet 21 points, making 6-for-8 field goals including 2-for-3 from 3-point range and connecting on 7-for-13 from the free-throw line.
However, Warrior head coach Justin Davie said his squad was a little tight in the first half, which was tied at 22 at the break.
“That’s to be expected, first postseason game of the year,” Davie said. “In the second half, I thought we really executed, knocked in some shots, made a lot of free throws. That was very reminiscent of the first time we played them here (50-39 on Dec. 4).”
He recalled an interview he had with Waverly Newspapers just a few feet from where he stood Saturday, stating that free throws were the difference in the earlier contest.
“That was the difference tonight, too,” he said. “I think we were able to limit their 3(-point) attempts and make them go to the basket and tried to push them to Mikenna (Joerger), and she did a good job.”
Cyclone coach Joe Frost felt the difference was that his team’s shots did not connect in the third quarter. They made just 1-of-13 from the floor — a 3-pointer by Jaden McMahon with 6 minutes, 52 seconds left in the penultimate period — en route to just five points in that period.
Meanwhile, the Warriors connected on 6-for-13 in the period to take a 38-27 lead into the fourth.
“It’s tough to win a game when you have a big lull of offense there, and they made some shots, so it kind of came down to a bad quarter for us,” Frost said.
Beesecker said the Warriors struggled some in the opening 16 minutes.
“We picked it up, and Denver had a really good defense,” Beesecker said. “Overall, it was just a good… we played well in the second half.”
The Cyclones (10-11) came out scoring well. Sarah Steege had five points in the period, including a 3-pointer, while Lila Meyers scored four to help Denver take an 11-6 advantage after 8 minutes of play.
Meanwhile, Riordan scored five herself, while Melody Kayser split a pair of free throws for the Warriors (12-10). In the second quarter, Riordan poured in eight and Beesecker added four to help pull Wapsie even. Kambrie Clinton drained a pair of treys in that quarter for Denver.
But then, the Warriors grabbed a 12-5 advantage in the third, and started to pull away in the fourth. Beesecker scored eight in the third frame, with a pair of 3s, and made her seven free throws in the final stanza.
Davie believed that when Wapsie changed its defense in the second half, the Cyclones just didn’t take well to it.
“They didn’t react until it was too late,” he said, with a mouth full of ice cream. “We switched defenses, and once they figured out what they were doing against it, and we were making shots, we had a lead, and it was an uphill battle for them after that.”
Steege led the Cyclones with 14 points on 2-for-9 shooting and 9-for-13 from the line. Clinton added 12, including 3-for-9 from 3-point range.
Frost said Denver’s season had a lot of highs and lows.
“This was obviously not one of our highs,” he said, “but we had some good moments here, and it’s always tough to look back right after the season. We had some good moments this year, and it just, you just try to remember those good moments.”
The Warriors will next face another North Iowa Cedar League East rival in Sumner-Fredericksburg on Tuesday night in Sumner. The Cougars are 15-5 on the season and defeated Wapsie both times this season — 52-26 on Nov. 30 in Sumner and 53-33 in rural Fairbank.
The players know that they have a tough road to hoe with Sumner-Fred.
“I think it’s going to be a hard match,” Beesecker said. “They’ve got two really tall posts (Cassidy and Jenna Pagel), and they’re pretty scrappy, and Ivy Hirsch, she’s a good shooter, and she likes to drive.
“I think we’ll be able to put up a good fight and hopefully win.”