Ames rebuffs Bobcats’ countless challenges

The mathematics of it all didn’t appear to add up to a win for the Marshalltown girls’ basketball team.

On paper, the Bobcats didn’t even stand a chance.

The moral victory gained by Marshalltown for simply competing with Ames in its make-up Central Iowa Conference Northern Division contest, however, was lost in the languish of the team’s 11th consecutive loss.

The visiting Little Cyclones (10-7, 3-1) knocked down eight 3-pointers and used a dominant third quarter to move out of the Bobcats’ reach, winning 64-49 on Saturday afternoon at the Roundhouse.

Ames held the Bobcats (3-16, 0-4) scoreless for a 5-minute stretch of the second quarter, forcing seven turnovers on Marshalltown’s first eight possessions of the period, but couldn’t put points on the board itself. Escaping into the halftime locker room with a 26-19 lead, the Little Cyclones found their scoring touch at the break and put it to use in the third quarter.

Ames pulled away behind a pair of 3-pointers and improved free-throw shooting with a 19-8 advantage in the third stanza. Despite a scary injury to senior forward JeAnn Hiraldo, the Little Cyclones took the lead for good and maintained a double-digit lead for the remainder.

Midway through the third period, Hiraldo dove for a loose ball and tripped up Bobcat forward Rachel Blagg in the process. The Ames ballplayer was laying face-first on the floor when Blagg fell backward onto her, and Hiraldo was eventually helped off the court after losing at least one tooth and quite a bit of blood.

The Little Cyclones barely skipped a beat, though, bouncing back from their teammate’s departure to pick up their fourth win in their last five games.

Jamie Steyer led four Ames players in double figures, finishing with 15 points. Molly Sanders, Deja McAtee and Bailee Jackson added 10 apiece. The Little Cyclones won by 22 at Mason City on Friday night, and the Mohawks mauled Marshalltown by 33 in their first meeting.

The Bobcats were led by Sam Hughes’ 16 points. Blagg secured her second consecutive double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds, and Amanda Hughes had 10 points. Kali Banks chipped in five points and five boards.

After going 2-for-9 from the charity stripe in the first half, Ames was 12-for-16 in the second half – and 7-of-8 in the closing 34 seconds as Marshalltown refused to relent.

“I think we missed seven straight free throws at one point,” said Ames coach Joel Sullivan. “Missing those free throws gets a little contagious and all of the sudden Marshalltown has hope and they cut it to five (points) right there before halftime. We kind of withstood the flurry and then we were able to come out and play great in the third quarter and extend the lead.”

The Little Cyclones opened the second half on a 7-0 run, and they led 37-21 when Hiraldo was sent to the emergency room.

“She lost one (tooth) for sure, she said another one was going to be gone, and there was a lot of blood,” Sullivan said. “It’s a hustle play, you can’t blame the Marshalltown kid, she was tripped, fell and landed right as (Hiraldo’s) face was on the floor. Hopefully it’s something she’ll recover from.”

Mirred in an 11-game funk, the Bobcats still managed to score more than 44 points for just the third time all season – and first since beating Des Moines Roosevelt on Dec. 6, 2013.

“Ames is a very good team, they went to Mason City last night and just beat up on them,” said MHS coach Stacy O’Hare. “They’ve been in and out of the ratings so I’m completely proud of the way our kids played, especially coming off last night’s loss.

“Playing back-to-back and not having a lot of time to recover, there were times I thought the kids looked tired but they fought through that. We got down and we kept coming back, we kept trying to fight our way back.”

The Bobcats held an early lead but gave in to a wave of Ames 3-pointers. Ryan Weiss came in off the bench to bury consecutive treys and the Little Cyclones led 17-11 after one period.

Marshalltown managed just two free-throw attempts in the first 6 minutes of the second quarter, committing a bulk of the team’s 21 turnovers in that span. Yet Ames only outscored the Bobcats 7-1 during that stretch.

“That really hurt us, we went way too long without scoring, we went way too long without even getting a shot off,” said O’Hare. “We got sloppy with the ball.

“We’d seen all this stuff before. We know teams are going to press us. If I scouted us, I’d press us as well, so that’s where we just need leadership, we need to calm down.”

Once that was accomplished, the Bobcats chipped away at the 24-12 lead. Banks scored a three-point play, Molly Major dribbled in from half court for a layup, and Banks converted a turnover into another bucket to make it a five-point game.

Hiraldo scored her only points of the game when she made an uncontested layup at the other end to snap the Bobcats’ 7-0 spurt going into halftime, and the deciding seven-point Ames surge started the third quarter.

The Little Cyclones improved to 10-1 when scoring 60 points or more this season.

Marshalltown is back at home on Tuesday, taking on Ankeny in a CIC contest. The Bobcats go to Ames for a rematch on Friday.