Any achievement worth its pursuit is going to involve some ups and downs. This was certainly the case for the Maquoketa Valley girls basketball team, who entered a highly anticipated Dec. 14 game with North Linn with a portion of the three-way tie for the Tri-Rivers Conference West lead, along with the Lynx and Springville.

Three days prior, the Wildcats had defeated East Buchanan, 58-40, in Winthrop to raise their record to 2-0 in divisional play. Behind a 25-point effort from senior Sam Wall and a swap to a 2-3 zone defense, MV took an 18-3 lead in the first quarter and didn’t look back — setting themselves up for Friday’s showdown.

With the Wildcats leading 22-5 lead early in the second, East Buchanan junior Erica Hoffman helped the Bucs cut the deficit to 25-17 by halftime. Her 25 points on the day couldn’t make up for a lack of offensive production from the rest of the roster, however, and MV came back from halftime and outscored the home team 33-23 in that span to lock up the win.

Senior Maddy Anderegg added eight points, and sophomore Emerson Whittenbaugh added seven. The Wildcats out-rebounded the Bucs 45-31, with Hoffman contributing 13 for her side.

“I was very proud of our kids in this game. East Buc is a very good team and for us to go on the road and get a ‘W’ says a lot about our kids,” MV head coach Scot Moenck said. “I felt we were really aggressive to the basket and didn’t settle for jump shots. With the pressure that East Buc brings our guards, for the most part, handled it well. We still need to do a better job of limiting our turnovers, not fouling, and getting back on defense. Those areas are major concerns for us. We played more zone in this game than we had all year so I was very pleased with how our kids adjusted.”

Friday’s game against the 2A, No. 9 ranked Lynx also pitted two of the TRC’s very best against one another. North Linn junior Grace Flanagan came in with the division lead at 19.4 points per game, with Wall (19.2) second.

North Linn opened the night with a 16-3 run in the first quarter, but the Wildcats picked up the pace for a 20-point second to make it 33-23 at halftime. Maquoketa Valley fought back in the second quarter and cut the deficit down to five at one point, but North Linn stopped the rally at a packed house in Delhi.

“We knew coming into this game it was going to be a dogfight. I really felt our kids were ready to play before the game. I just felt to start the game we were a little tight and missed some shots that we normally make and had some defensive breakdowns which cannot happen against good teams. They will take advantage of that, and to North Linn’s credit, they did,” Moenck said. “I was proud of the way our kids fought back. We cut the lead to five with the ball and could never get over the hump. This one hurt. Our kids will learn from it and improve. This team is such a motivated group of kids. We will get better.”

Wall led the way with 15 points. Whittenbaugh played a stellar second half for 12 points, while Imler hit several long-range shots for 10.