A painful lossWashington scores a season-low 15 points in regional final defeat
CEDAR RAPIDS — As Washington senior Lauren Kimball hobbled to the bench with 1:35 remaining in Tuesday’s Class 4A Region 4 final at Cedar Rapids Kennedy High School, she was sobbing.
The sting of the 51-15 season-ending loss to fifth-ranked Cedar Rapids Xavier, however, likely outweighed any of the pain in her left ankle.
“I wanted to be able to finish strong for my team,” said Kimball, who rolled her ankle in the second quarter of the regional final. “I guess I wasn’t very strong, but I tried to finish.”
Kimball leaped to try to steal a pass midway through the second quarter and came down on another player’s foot. And even though the Demons were already trailing by double digits when Kimball, Washington’s leading scorer and starting point guard, injured her ankle, after that things went from bad to worse.
“Your point guard has got to get the ball dispersed and get it started, so that really shorthanded us,” Washington head coach Phil Long said. “To her credit, she tried to come back and grind through it, but you could obviously tell that she was two steps slow.”
After getting her ankle taped and testing it out behind the Washington bench, Kimball returned to the game before halftime. But she was slowed considerably by the injury.
“She showed a lot of courage and guts just to come back out onto the floor,” Xavier head coach Tom Lilly said. “She was hobbled.”
In the closing seconds of the second quarter, Xavier senior Sarah Dickes swiped the ball from Kimball at midcourt and took it the other way for a layup that gave the Saints a 30-7 lead at halftime. The steal by Dickes marked the 17th turnover of the first half by the Demons.
“Coach always says the team that gets the most layups wins, and we really came out and looked to pressure them and get some easy buckets,” Dickes said.
The Demons (14-8) were frustrated by Xavier’s in-your-face defensive pressure in the first half. Washington was held scoreless in the second quarter of Tuesday’s regional final.
“I think they were just up and handsy on us, and we weren’t used to that,” Washington junior Grace Redlinger said.
Redlinger came off the Demon bench to score all seven of Washington’s first-half points.
“When you look up and Redlinger has your first seven points and nobody else is on the board until the second half, you know you’re in for a long night,” Long said.
By the time junior Stephanie Fishback sliced through the lane for a layup early in the third quarter, the Demons had gone nearly 11½ minutes without a basket. Washington shot just 12.5 percent (5-for-40) from the field and scored a season-low 15 points in the season-ending loss.
“We just kind of freaked ourselves out, I think,” Kimball said. “We just kind of got frazzled and kind of got into the mindset that we couldn’t do it. We just kind of gave it away.”
Redlinger, who scored nine of Washington’s 15 points, led all scorers. Kimball finished the game scoreless.
Dickes, senior Ashley Stulken and junior Hayley Deutmeyer scored eight points apiece to lead the Saints.
Xavier (15-9) qualified for the state tournament for the second-straight year and the 10th time in school history. The Saints, who won Class 3A state championships in 2003, 2005 and 2007, lost in the quarterfinals of the 4A state tournament last year.
“We got there last year, and it was a cool experience,” Dickes said. “We’re really excited to be going back, and hopefully we can go a ways.”
Xavier will face seventh-ranked Lewis Central in a state quarterfinal game at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 27.
Washington’s season ended in the regional final for the fourth time in five years.
“I think that’s something nobody expected us to do,” Kimball said. “After losing our seniors from last year who were a huge part of our team, nobody really expected us to do what we did. We put the work in and we all knew what we had to do and we got this far. I guess I should be thankful to be here, but it kind of stinks [to lose].”
Now the Demons, who lose Kimball and six other seniors to graduation, will begin the process of reloading.
“When Cassey Sobaski’s group graduated there were seven seniors in that class. Everybody said, ‘Well, they can’t replace seven people.’ What did we do? We won a conference title again the next year,” Long said. “No kids are irreplaceable. You just have to change the pieces of the puzzle. Our JV got second in the conference this year and our freshmen won the conference, so the cupboard’s not bare.”