Bamberger’s buzzer-beater provides happy ending for RSM girls basketball season

Tuesday, March 7, 2023
(Sentinel Photo By Allen Hamil) Lotta Bamberger (22) is hugged by her host sister, Grace Galles, while the rest of the team reacts to the buzzer-beating shot.

DES MOINES — Lotta Bamberger received the entry pass from Gracyn Schroeder in the lane as the final seconds ticked off the clock in the Class 1A state semifinals. Bamberger, quickly double teamed by a pair of Bishop Garrigan players, took a dribble then turned to her left where she launched the ball over her shoulder, looking to make the buzzer-beating shot from just in front of the free-throw line. The Remsen St. Mary’s bench all stood in anticipation as the shot made its way to the hoop. The ball banked perfectly off the backboard and in as the RSM players and fans erupted into pandemonium. Bamberger, a foreign exchange student from Germany, had done it. She had written her name into the scorebook like a hero.

The Hawks reacted as though they had just advanced to the state championship. In fact, that was far from the reality. Bishop Garrigan, the top seed in the bracket and the defending state champs, already had the game well in hand, winning by a final score of 73-39. But for RSM, if they weren’t going to play for a championship, having Lotta score the final basket was how they wanted their season to end.

“I didn’t even realize that we had just lost at the state tournament,” said freshman Grace Galles, a host sister for Bamberger as she spends the year in America. “It was awesome just seeing Lotta score that shot. I was at the top of the key and like, ‘Just shoot it!’ It was a crazy shot. Her back was turned, she just threw it over her head and banked it in. It was really awesome to see Lotta get to do that.”

(Sentinel Photo By Allen Hamil) Lotta Bamberger puts up her shot at the end of the team’s semifinal contest.

Bamberger, who was chosen to advance the team on the bracket after their quarterfinal win, said it was a great feeling.

“It meant a lot to me and that I scored was wonderful actually. Just to see all these people to have a smile on their face even though we lost, it was just a great ending of season,” Bamberger said.

(Sentinel Photo By Allen Hamil) The Remsen St. Mary’s student section and crowd erupts after Bamberger’s shot at the state tournament.

No experience with basketball

Bamberger came to Remsen in August and is staying with the Bart and Kelly Galles family during her time in the United States. She went out for volleyball in the fall and then decided to try basketball this winter.

“Basically my whole class did it, so I was like, I’m just going to try it,” Bamberger said. “I could always quit, that was always an option, but I thought it was just fun and the main part was just to socialize. It wasn’t the sport, it was the part of being with all of my friends and to just spend time with them.”

Basketball was a new sport with plenty of rules to try to learn.

“It took me a long time to know what a travel was, a very long time,” Bamberger said.

RSM Head Coach Scott Willman said the team really took Bamberger under their wing and helped her to understand the game.

“She came and she really didn’t know a lick of basketball, but she’s somebody that everybody really gave a lot of attention to, helped her build her skills and have fun with,” Willman said.

Willman said the team would sometimes slow down drills to help her out and that she was able to pick up on things quickly.

“The kids just worked with her and made her better,” Willman said.

The players said it’s amazing how far she has come in just one season.

“Looking back at the beginning of the season, Lotta’s definitely came a long way,” Galles said. “Just footwork from the layup, shooting form, everything. There’s practices where she brought my mom in on Sundays sometimes and mom just sat at a hoop with her and did form work. She’s a very good player for what she’s done in a year.”

Willman has seen the growth as well.

“She couldn’t make a layup at the beginning of the year. Always off the wrong foot, but by the end of the year, we do a drill at the start of the practice and you have to make so many, she was adding to it by the end of the season and being able to do her work when sometimes others weren’t,” Willman said. “She really did make some really good improvements.”

Even Bamberger said she’s noticed how much she has grown in the sport of basketball over the winter.

“I think I’ve grown a lot during the time, just like the ball handling and stuff like that. I was terrible at the beginning, and I’m still not good at it, but I’m definitely better at it right now,” Bamberger said.

The buzzer beater wasn’t the first basket Bamberger made this season. She had made two others earlier in the season, but making one on the biggest stage was even more special.

“It’s always awesome to see these all these people excited that I make the shot. Even at school when I made my first shot, we talked about it,” Bamberger said. “Everyone was proud of me. I get several text messages from my friends saying that was so awesome. It was just a great feeling.”

(Sentinel Photo By Allen Hamil) The Remsen St. Mary’s girls basketball team surrounds their teammate to congratulate her after making the game-ending shot.

‘We want Lotta’

If you attended a Remsen St. Mary’s game this season, you likely heard the student section with a familiar chant, “We want Lotta!”

“We hear the chants, sometimes way too early in games, even in the first quarter, ‘We want Lotta’ because she’s very popular,” Willman said.

Bamberger added, “Sometimes at the beginning of the game. That’s too early.”

With Remsen St. Mary’s winning many of their games by larger margins, opportunities for Bamberger to take the court presented themselves and the crowd would anticipate Bamberger checking in at the scorer’s table.

“Our crowd, sometimes even the other crowd, they really get into what she’s doing on the court,” Willman said. “One game as she was going down the court, she had a steal, took some dribbles and threw a cross court assist to Marina Cronin for a layup and it just wowed all of us.”

Along with being a beloved member of the basketball team, Bamberger has become like family for the RSM community.

“It’s been really nice. I’ve always had older siblings. Now that they’re out of the house, the house was kind of empty, so we were like we could get a foreign exchange student. It’s been really nice,” Galles said. “At first, it’s like it’s going to be weird having a stranger for nine months and they just leave, but Lotta really became part of the family and we’re definitely going to miss her when she’s gone.”

While Bamberger has learned the sport of basketball while here, she has also provided many good lessons for the RSM students according to Willman.

“Just the cultural thought of it all, being able to teach the kids that there’s a bigger world out there than what we just have in Remsen. While Remsen is a German/Luxembourg heritage city, they truly get to experience it a little bit more with her there,” Willman said.

Bamberger is from the city of Stolberg in the western part of Germany, about an hour away from Cologne.

“It’s been really interesting, the school and everything and just to see how people live,” Bamberger said of her time in Remsen. “Life is just different when you move. I still like it. It’s completely different, but I still enjoy being here and being a part of this whole team and school.”

She added that spending time laughing at supper with her host family is one of the things she has enjoyed about her stay.

While the basketball season is over, Bamberger said she will continue to try new things this spring.

“I was in volleyball and I’m going to be in golf and probably track, I don’t know yet, and then musical,” Bamberger said. “It’s going to be a full schedule. Never golfed before, I ran a little bit during quarantine, and I’m not a runner, but it’s going to be fun.”

If her time playing basketball is any indication, Bamberger should be able to accomplish whatever else she seeks to attain in life.

“Everyone likes Lotta. She adds a spirit, a fire. She has a really great attitude. She works hard, she listens,” Willman said. “I’ve used this word a lot on Lotta, she was an inspiration.”

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