Late rally for Le Mars girls basketball falls short against No. 3 Heelan

Wednesday, February 22, 2023
(Sentinel Photo By Allen Hamil) Le Mars senior Payton Wright dribbles the ball in Saturday’s regional game. She was the lone senior to suit up for the Bulldogs this season.

SIOUX CITY — The Le Mars Community girls basketball team rallied from a 17 point deficit late in the third quarter to pull to within five with under a minute left to play, but Class 4A No. 3 ranked Bishop Heelan was able to hold on for a 46-38 win in a regional semifinal game Saturday.

“That never quit that our girls have says a lot about their character,” Le Mars Head Coach Cody Dyhrkopp said. “I appreciate the coaching that they take from our staff when we tell them when they’re down by 14 in a regional semifinal game that it’s not over. They could easily call it quits, but they didn’t tonight and they made it a ballgame down the stretch.”

Bishop Heelan scored the first nine points of the second half to take a 28-11 lead. Le Mars finally broke the ice with just under two minutes left to go in the third quarter as lone senior Payton Wright scored her only basket on her only attempt.

“I can’t say enough good things about Payton for sticking it out with us,” Dyhrkopp said. “She could have called it quits a long time ago, but she’s stuck with us and always accepted our coaching. She comes off the bench for us and gives us great minutes and the program will miss having her around.”

The remaining points in the quarter came at the free-throw line as Zoe Wittkop and Jaelyn Marienau each made two as the Bulldogs trailed 32-17 at the end of the third quarter.

Le Mars then scored the first eight points of the fourth quarter to get the game back to within single digits. Dyhrkopp said the team made a change to help the offense show some signs of life after being held to just 17 points in the first 24 minutes.

“We started to screen the top girl on their 1-3-1 and that kind of helped Jaelyn and Zoe get downhill and create something for our offense initially,” Dyhrkopp said. “We saw the ball go through the net a little bit more the second half than we did the first.”

Le Mars got a 3-pointer from Sarah Brown, half of her total points in the game, and later got another from Marienau, her second of the contest, as the Bulldogs chipped away and pulled to a 42-37 score with 47.2 seconds remaining. Marienau ended as the top scorer for the Bulldogs with 10 points as along with her two triples, she made all four of her attempts at the free-throw line.

(Sentinel Photo By Allen Hamil) Jaelynn Marienau shoots a 3-pointer for Le Mars in Saturday’s regional semifinal contest against Bishop Heelan. Marienau made a pair of threes as she led the team with 10 points in the game.

Heelan’s Brooklyn Stanley made four free throws in the final stretch of the game to help seal the win for the Crusaders. She finished as their top scorer with 13 points with seven of those at the charity stripe.

Overall, Dyhrkopp was happy with the team’s defensive effort against the Crusaders as they held them nearly 20 points below their season scoring average. The Bulldogs held their opponent to just six points in the first quarter and the Crusaders ended 0-of-11 from 3-point range in the contest after entering the game as one of the top five in Class 4A in 3-point field goal percentage.

“As of late, I feel like we’ve done a really good job of ball pressuring on the perimeter, making teams put it on the floor. That’s led to more tips and turnovers for us,” Dyhrkopp said. “I know that we probably didn’t get them to turn it over as much as we wanted to tonight, but we made it uncomfortable for them at times.”

Le Mars led 8-6 after a quarter which included a bucket apiece for Wittkop, Grace Van Otterloo, Metta Skov and Lexi Hurd. After Marienau’s 10 points, Skov was next on the team with eight points and led the way with six rebounds and three assists. Wittkop ended with six points while the first quarter buckets were the only points for Hurd and Van Otterloo in the game.

“I really appreciate where our girls’ mindset was going into this game. This is a game where they didn’t back down. They wanted the pressure, they wanted to play in a big game like this and it showed from the tip,” Dyhrkopp said. “Holding Heelan to six points in the first quarter is a big deal. Even holding them to what they finished with at the end of the night is a big deal because this is a really good basketball team.”

In the end it was a cold-shooting middle portion of the game which proved costly for the Bulldogs. The team went over six minutes into the second quarter before getting their only points of the frame on Marienau’s three. The team then went nearly a full quarter’s length of time between their points in the second quarter and first points of the third quarter.

“We just didn’t make enough shots in the second quarter. We were on eight and we were on 11 for too long. It’s tough. That can’t happen when you’re playing a good team like Heelan,” Dyhrkopp said.

Heelan has now won 13 in a row in the series. They swept the team’s MRAC meetings this season by scores of 73-57 and 60-50.

Le Mars finishes the season with a 13-10 record. Of the team’s 10 losses, nine came against teams who were ranked in the final IGHSAU ratings.

“There’s a couple of those losses that were close against some really good basketball teams that we would have liked to have some things happen differently down the stretch of them, but our girls have a lot to be proud of this season,” Dyhrkopp said. “Thirteen wins, there’s a lot of teams throughout the state of Iowa that would like to have 13 wins right now. Everything that happened throughout the season can be a positive learning experience for them and make them better basketball players and hopefully better people, too.”

Bishop Heelan (21-2) advanced to face Spencer (16-6) in the Class 4A regional final round.

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