Maquoketa Valley’s girls basketball team advanced to the regional final with a 46-38 win over Beckman Feb. 15 in Manchester.

The Blazers managed just six points in the third quarter and saw their 23-20 halftime lead evaporate, trailing 33-29 to start the fourth quarter. Even though they cut the margin to two, 36-34, with three minutes to go, the free throw line handed the advantage back to the Wildcats, giving MV its 20th win of the season and a trip to face the defending state champion Cascade Cougars Feb. 18 at Dubuque Senior.

The beginning of the game gave rise to Blazer hopes of another upset. They came out on fire and controlled the game, breaking to a 5-0 lead on baskets from Sydney Steffen and Paige McDermott. Three straight Blazer fouls eventually sent Emerson Whittenbaugh to the line for two, 5-2, but the Blazers got an Ashley Engelken trey for an 8-2 lead. In the final minute, Elle Imler and Whittenbaugh each connected from afar to knot the game at 8-8 by the end of the quarter.

That didn’t stop the Blazers who matched those treys with two from Sydney Arens to go up 14-8. Wildcat leading scorer Sam Wall finally got one to go down with six minutes left to make it 14-10 but Steffen hit a three and Jess Lueken a 10-footer to pad the lead to 19-10.

Maddy Anderegg hit a Wildcat three and Tara Hansel replied with a four-footer to make it 21-13. Maci Freiburger and Wall got in five to cut it to 23-18 before Freiburger got a bunny for the halftime mark.

Following halftime, the Wildcats got an early Wall lay-up, 23-22 but McDermott added a point to the margin with 1-of-2 free throws, 24-22. Then, the free throw line became the Wildcats’ friend. In the final five minutes of the quarter, they made 6-of-7, grew the lead to 33-29 when the Blazers had to settle for just six point in the frame. The other five came from Lueken from the 12-foot line and Steffen from the arc.

The fourth quarter was more of the same. The Wildcats scored all but two of their points from the bonus line, making 11-of-15, most of those by Wall who controlled the ball at the point and begged Blazers to foul her. She went 6-of-6 and scored the lone two-point basket they made, tallying 20 on the night, somewhat below her season average.

“Dyersville is another team that is extremely well-coached,” commented Wildcat coach Scot Moenck. “They’re such a big and physical team and we’re not used to that. We didn’t get off to a good start and Beckman came out and hit some really big shots.

“We were really concerned with their inside game and they came out and hit threes to start the game. Again, to our team’s credit, we didn’t panic and kept chipping away and finally took the lead late in the third period.

“We didn’t shoot well in this game and a lot of that had to do with Beckman doing a good job keeping us off balance. We did a nice job being aggressive to the basket and getting to the free throw line. (Wildcats made 19-of-25.)

“This was a very big win for our kids and program. We have to do a better job of starting the next game. I would like to thank the crowd we had. It was an awesome feeling looking across the court and seeing all the fans decked out in black cheering on the girls,” he concluded.

“Our girls left everything on the court and I couldn’t be more proud of that,” said coach Chad Thomason. “They fought the whole game tonight against a very tough Maquoketa Valley team.

“This group of seniors will be truly missed. They have worked their butts off for us for three years in varsity and will be extremely hard to replace.”

Beckman’s leaders were: scoring — Steffen 13 (three treys), Lueken 10, Arens six (two), McDermott four (one), Engelken three (one), Hansel two; rebounds — Steffen and Hansel five, Lueken two, McDermott and Olivia Pirc one; steals — Arens, Steffen, Lueken, McDermott and Hansel one; blocks — Hansel two, Steffen one; assists – Hansel five, Steffen three, Engelken and Arens one.

Wall led MV with 20 points (two treys), Whittenbaugh eight, Imler six (one), Taya Tucker five, Maci Freiburger four, Anderegg three (one).

The Blazers end their season at 12-11.