Bobcats rough up Riders for easy win

The key to the Marshalltown girl’s basketball team finding success against Des Moines Roosevelt on Friday was trying to limit the opportunities 6-foot-4 post Meredith Burkhall had around the basket.

The solution was simple – pressure the guards so they couldn’t make an easy entry pass into the lane.

That’s how MHS coach Stacy O’Hare and her coaching staff gameplanned it and the Bobcats executed it to perfection during a 65-35 non-conference rout of the Roughriders at the Roundhouse.

“The press was working for us,” said O’Hare. “We had to have tremendous ball pressure and not let them just dribble it up and feed (Burkhall) inside. We had to pressure the guards, force them to make turnovers and keep them out of the paint.”

Mission accomplished.

The Riders had trouble with the Bobcats’ full-court press all night and Marshalltown (2-1) converted Roosevelt’s miscues into easy points at the other end.

Several Bobcats had career nights offensively, including Amanda Hughes’ 16 points and seven rebounds.

“We tried to fastbreak and out-run them to get easy shots,” Hughes said. “We also rebounded well at both ends, which helped a lot, too. We wanted to slow them down, frustrate them and take advantage of it at the offensive end.”

The Bobcats have scored at least 63 points in their two wins this season. Marshalltown won four games all of last year and only scored more than 60 points once, and that came in the season opener against Des Moines North.

And everyone was in on the act Friday.

Senior Emily Rebik led the way with a career-high 20, but junior Rachel Blagg also had a career-best 10 points and seven boards and senior Kali Banks scored a career-high nine. Junior Sam Hughes, who scored 23 in the loss to Des Moines Hoover on Tuesday, only scored four Friday but played a vital role on the boards and on defense.

“It was tremendous balance, and that is important for us,” O’Hare said. “We aren’t going to be successful if only one player is scoring.”

Roosevelt drops to 0-4 on the year. Burkhall scored 16 points in the first half against Marshalltown’s 2-3 zone but only tallied two in the second half against Blagg in the box and one.

Burkhall is a tough matchup for anyone, but the Bobcats didn’t back down from the challenge. They were rewarded at the offensive end with 33 foul shots.

That was a far cry from Tuesday night when the Bobcats forced up way too many 3-pointers in the loss to Hoover. Marshalltown attempted just two shots from long range against Roosevelt.

“We weren’t intimidated by her,” O’Hare said of Burkhall. “We just kept attacking. We shot just two 3s tonight. We talked about having better decisions with the ball and we had an inside-outside game, which is going to be huge for us.”

Burkhall kept the Riders in the game briefly in the first quarter as she grabbed good position on the low block. She scored six first-quarter points but Marshalltown turned an 8-7 advantage into a 16-9 lead after one quarter.

An 11-2 run to begin the second quarter put the game out of reach for the Riders as the Bobcats led 27-11. Burkhall had 10 points in the period, but the Bobcats got strong efforts inside the lane to counter her as Rebik scored nine of her 20 in the frame to help MHS head into the locker room at halftime up 38-22.

“I was taking the ball to the basket a lot in the first half because I couldn’t hit from outside, but then those outside shots treated me well in the second half,” Rebik said of her career night. “It feels good. We don’t want just one girl scoring a bunch of points though. We were working as a team tonight and a lot of us got a bunch of points.”

The advantage for Marshalltown grew a little bit higher after each period in the second half. Six of Banks’ nine points were collected in the third and Rebik filled it up from outside and at the line to put the Bobcats up 55-30 after three.

Burkhall’s only bucket of the second half came after she grabbed a rebound at the defensive end and went coast-to-coast for the running hook shot at the other end.

“We played a box and one on her in the second half but wanted to give the 2-3 a look in the first half,” O’Hare said. “The 2-3 was as good as I have seen it all year, including in practice. We didn’t even practice the box and one but just decided to try it. And it worked. Rachel did a great job on her in the second half.”

O’Hare admitted that she never felt comfortable until there were about five minutes left in the game. She hopes the team that showed up Friday is her real Bobcat squad and Tuesday’s result was a “flash in the pan.”

“I was nervous after Tuesday,” O’Hare said. “We did not play well at all that night, but we can chalk that up to it being the first game at the Roundhouse. There were a lot of nerves. We were focused and intense tonight from the start. They were not happy with their performance against Hoover and they got after it tonight.”


The Bobcats return to the court today as they travel to Boone to face the Toreadors at 3 p.m. … A member of Wake Forest’s coaching staff visited the Roundhouse on Friday to watch Burkhall. Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly was in attendence at last year’s MHS-Roosevelt game in Des Moines. … Lai Pham hit three 3-pointers in the second half for Roosevelt, but only she and Burkhall scored more than three points in the loss.