Both Bulldog squads knock off previously unbeaten Sioux Center
LE MARS — It came down to the wire in both games and in each Le Mars Community was able to prevail with one-point wins over previously unbeaten Sioux Center teams as Sidney Baumgartner hit the go-ahead free throws with nine seconds remaining in the girls game and Gabe Eckstaine did likewise with 0.9 seconds left in the boys matchup.
The boys team battled back from a double digit deficit as 3A No. 9 Le Mars defeated 2A No. 2 Sioux Center 65-64.
“We just played tough,” Head Coach Dave Irwin said. “I questioned our toughness on Friday, but we’ve had a little time to absorb what’s happened, a little time to adjust. I was extremely impressed with our guys tonight.”
The Bulldogs were once again without leading scorer Will Pottebaum who will likely be out for the remainder of the season as he prepares to have surgery on a fracture.
“He’s out for the foreseeable future,” Irwin said. “Best case scenario we get him back by tournament time, but we’re just hoping everything goes well. Whatever is best for Will is what we want.”
Trailing 26-13 after a quarter, Irwin said his team could have thrown in the towel, but instead showed toughness and chipped away at the deficit.
“I’m extremely proud of the effort they gave tonight,” Irwin said. “They showed a lot of toughness a lot of character. They battled through adversity. They had every opportunity in that first quarter to cash it in and they did not. They just chipped away. They didn’t look for a 13, 14, 15-point shot. They played it possession by possession and that’s what you’ve got to do.”
The tides really started to turn in the third quarter as Dylan Rarrat-Kass caught fire from outside, scoring 19 of the team’s 23 points in the frame. He ended with a career-high 26 points before fouling out late in the game. He went 6-of-11 from 3-point range.
While Rarrat-Kass did a lot of the heavy lifting, Irwin said each player stepped up in big moments on the night.
“Dylan just had a game,” Irwin said. “We rode him, he was making shots and we got him shots. We just traded off. We had guys step up at big times.”
Eckstaine ended with 12 points after hitting the game-winning free throws with less than a second left. He also tied for the most rebounds with Logan Lancaster as each ended with five. Lancaster scored 10 points, matching JT Engebretson who also had four assists and three steals.
Final starter Alex Irwin finished with five points, all in the first quarter, while Tyler Szczech tallied the remaining two points with a basket on his only attempt.
The Bulldogs snapped a two-game losing skid with the victory and improve to 7-3 on the season with a matchup against 2A No. 1 and rival Western Christian on Friday. The Wolfpack are currently undefeated, but have a game on Thursday against Unity Christian.
The Le Mars girls entered ranked No. 9 in 4A and faced the top-ranked team in 3A who entered with a 10-0 record.
Last year’s meeting left a bad taste in the mouths of the Bulldogs as the team was humiliated by a 68-22 loss to a team that eventually made it to the state championship game. This time it was the Warriors who left with the bitter taste as Le Mars won 55-54.
“Sioux Center is a great team,” Head Coach Judd Kopperud said. “I think tonight we did a great job of handling their pressure and being patient getting the shots we wanted offensively. Defensively, I thought we played well other than a stretch in the third quarter. We did a lot of fundamental things well tonight.”
Le Mars held Sioux Center to a season-low 54 points while battling back from an eight point second half deficit.
“Credit to our girls, they kept fighting and I was just really proud of their mental toughness tonight,” Kopperud said.
Baumgartner had missed two earlier free throws, but hit the most important ones in the waning seconds to finish with eight points and give the Bulldogs the win.
“She had a nice drive to the hoop, got fouled and went to the line and hit two clutch free throws like a senior should,” Kopperud said. “That was fantastic for her. Definitely a memory Sidney will never forget.”
Madison Dreckman led the team with 20 points as she wasn’t able to get much going close to the hoop. Nine of her points came from hitting a trio of treys and seven more came at the charity stripe.
Jennifer Schneider added 16 points for the Bulldogs who move to 10-2 on the season.
Kopperud said the crowd was a huge boost for the team.
“I just want to compliment our crowd and fans tonight,” Kopperud said. “They were outstanding and brought great energy. The girls really fed off of that in the fourth quarter.”
Le Mars will face rival Western Christian on Friday. The Wolfpack are currently ranked third in 2A, but a new set of rankings are set to be released prior to the meeting of the teams.