DES MOINES — Mike Sconsa’s daughter stood at his side, holding the giant plaque that goes to the championship coach.
“It will probably go in my suitcase,” he said. “I’m not a coach that needs a championship to validate me.”
He paused and collected himself.
“It’s those 16 kids over there. It’s unmatched to see them get rewarded.”
Sixth-ranked Cascade allowed a 13-point lead to melt away, then the Cougars collected and composed themselves in time to edge No. 8 Grundy Center, 41-37, for the Class 2A girls’ state basketball championship Saturday night at Wells Fargo Arena.
“It’s a dream come true. I can’t believe it,” sophomore Nicole McDermott said. “I can’t believe we pulled it out. I mean, I knew we could, but after they came back, we were able to push our way through it.”
As it usually does, Cascade (25-3) won with defense. The Cougars forced Grundy Center (24-2) into 16-percent shooting (8 of 49). Still, the Spartans nearly stole the title at the end.
All-tournament captain Hailey Wallis brought the Spartans back, two free throws at a time. She sank all 18 foul shots she attempted, including a pair that tied the game, 37-37, with 1:16 left.
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“I tried to block out all the distractions and relax,” said Wallis, who scored 29 points, including all of the Spartans’ last 24.
Abby Welter made both ends of a one-and-one with 1:04 remaining to put the Cougars back in front. Grundy Center missed 3-point shots on its next possession, and had another chance after a held ball with 4 seconds left.
Anne Ryan got her hand on the inbounds pass and McDermott gained control. She was fouled with 2.9 seconds left and hit both foul shots to clinch the title.
McDermott posted 15 points, nine rebounds and eight steals. She and teammate Jordan Simon joined Wallis on the all-tournament team. So did Grundy Center’s Maddie McMartin, North Union’s Chloe Lofstrom and Treynor’s Kayla Chapman.
Ryan added 13 points, Simon 11. Rachel Trumm didn’t score, but her 12 rebounds staked Cascade to a 40-29 advantage on the boards.
The teams went back and forth early, then Cascade pulled ahead on the strength of its defense, which is its strength most of the time anyway.
Cascade forced the Spartans into 20 consecutive missed field-goal attempts in a 16-minute span before Wallis’ 3 got the Spartans within 31-22 with 1:30 left in the third quarter.
“We knew we had to contest shots,” Simon said. “We had to do it with defense, because that’s what we do best.”
Then came Wallis’ free-throw festival, and finally, Cascade’s recovery.
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It wasn’t easy for the Cougars this week. They overcame the absence of Abbie Ruggeberg on the floor for the final two games, then prevailed in a triple-overtime semifinal against North Union.
“It was awesome. It was chaotic. It just shows the character of the kids,” Sconsa said. “It’s surreal, but a good kind of surreal.”
Ryan said, “This championship, it’s because of Sconsa. We don’t have all these Division-I players. We’re not the greatest basketball players. But because of him, we believe in ourselves and are able to go above and beyond.”
CASCADE 41, GRUNDY CENTER 37
Class 2A State Championship, at Des Moines
GRUNDY CENTER (37): Hailey Wallis 4-18 18-18 29, Maddie McMartin 0-5 0-0 0, Sydney Mathews 0-1 0-0 0, Kylie Willis 2-8 0-1 4, Brooke Flater 2-7 0-0 4, Reegen Zinkula 0-3 0-0 0, Sarah Lindeman 0-3 0-0 0, Cora Saak 0-4 0-0 0. Totals 8-49 18-19 37.
CASCADE (41): Nicole McDermott 4-8 6-8 15, Anne Ryan 5-15 1-1 13, Jordan Simon 4-7 0-0 11, Rachel Trumm 0-3 0-0 0, Abby Welter 0-4 2-3 2, Skylar Dolphin 0-1 0-0 0, Zoe Ryan 0-2 0-0 0, Molly McElmeel 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 13-40 9-12 41.
Halftime: Cascade 22, Grundy Center 15. 3-point goals: Grundy Center 3-25 (Wallis 3-12, McMartin 0-4, Willis 0-2, Zinkula 0-3, Lindeman 0-2, Saak 0-2), Cascade 6-16 (McDermott 1-1, A.Ryan 2-8, Simon 3-5, Z.Ryan 0-2). Team fouls: Grundy Center 16, Cascade 15. Fouled out: none. Rebounds: Grundy Center 29 (Wallis 8), Cascade 40 (Trumm 12). Assists: Grundy Center 7 (Mathews 3), Cascade 8 (McDermott 4). Steals: Grundy Center 14 (Wallis 5), Cascade 9 (McDermott 8). Turnovers: Grundy Center 10, Cascade 21.
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