Prep Basketball

Defense-and-desire formula works again for Cascade girls' basketball

Cougars stymie Denver, 41-28, in a 2A quarterfinal

DES MOINES — Their T-shirt motto is as vanilla as their style.

Play Hard.

“That’s the No. 1 thing for us,” Cascade Coach Mike Sconsa said. “We live and die by playing hard.”

Slight amendment. They win by playing hard. Almost always, they simply play harder than their opponent.

Top-ranked Cascade held Denver without a field goal for nearly 15 minutes in a stretch that started midway through the first quarter and ended in the third, and dropped the Cyclones, 41-28, in a Class 2A state quarterfinal Tuesday night at Wells Fargo Arena.

“It was so much fun,” Jordan Simon said. “This place feels like home.”

A resident of Wells Fargo seven of the last eight years, the Cougars (26-0) advanced to the semifinals for the sixth time in that span, highlighted by a 2A championship in 2018.

They’ll face No. 5 Osage (23-2) in a semifinal at 10 a.m. Friday.

The first half was an absolute defensive clinic by the Cougars. Denver (17-9) made 1 of 16 shots from the floor and committed nine turnovers.

There were just no good looks. Invade the lane, and a Cyclone was surrounded by two or three Cougars. Hoist a 3-pointer, and there was a hand in their face. Simon blocked one of them, emphatically.

“We locked down on their shooters. We really focused on that,” senior guard Nicole McDermott said. “Our game is at the defensive end.”

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For much of the game, McDermott had more points than all of the Cyclones collectively. She finished with 19, on 9-of-15 shooting.

But Cascade’s identity, as always, is defense. And desire.

“They really do enjoy it,” Sconsa said. “At one point in the second half, we had an 18-point lead and there was a loose ball and there were three of our kids chasing it like it was a lottery ticket.

“Everybody talks defense, but we live it.”

McDermott scored Cascade’s final 11 points of the first half, leading the Cougars to a 26-8 advantage at intermission. She was one sick kid in the Cougars’ regional-final win over Iowa City Regina last week.

“Influenza A and B, plus walking pneumonia,” she said. “My lungs weren’t working so well for a while.”

Sophomore Ally Hoffman, the only non-senior in the starting lineup, added eight points and 10 rebounds for the Cougars. Simon scored seven points.

Jaden McMahon and Reese Johnson led Denver with eight points apiece.

CASCADE 41, DENVER 28

2A State Quarterfinal, at Des Moines

DENVER (28): Jaden McMahon 3-11 0-0 8, Allison Bonnette 0-0 0-0 0, Emma Hennessey 0-2 2-2 2, Grace Hennessey 2-8 0-0 4, Reese Johnson 2-7 3-4 8, Lexi Lyons 0-0 0-0 0, Tessa Joerger 0-0 0-0 0, Sammi Gehrke 0-0 0-0 0, Bre Sadler 0-0 0-0 0, Rachel Hennessey 0-0 0-0 0, Natalie Harberts 0-0 0-0 0, Sydney Eggena 1-4 3-4 5. Totals 8-32 8-10 28.

CASCADE (41): Nicole McDermott 9-15 1-1 19, Ally Hoffman 3-9 0-0 8, Skylar Dolphin 1-5 0-0 3, Jordan Simon 1-2 4-4 7, Abby Welter 2-11 0-2 4, Sydney Weber 0-1 0-0 0, Devin Simon 0-0 0-0 0, Elizabeth Gibbs 0-0 0-0 0, Faith Bower 0-1 0-0 0, Megan Smith 0-0 0-0 0, Alyssa Lux 0-3 0-0 0, Taryn Hoffman 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 16-47 5-7 41.

Halftime: Cascade 26, Denver 8. 3-point goals: Denver 4-16 (McMahon 2-8, G. Hennessey 1-4, Johnson 1-4), Cascade 4-16 (McDermott 0-2, Hoffman 2-5, Dolphin 1-2, Simon 1-2, Welter 0-3, Bower 0-1, Lux 0-1). Team fouls: Denver 11, Cascade 11. Fouled out: none. Rebounds: Denver 31 (E. Hennessey, Eggena 6), Cascade 23 (Hoffman 10). Assists: Denver 5 (McMahon 2), Cascade 5 (McDermott 3). Steals: Denver 5 (Eggena 2), Cascade 11 (Welter 3). Turnovers: Denver 19, Cascade 10.

Comments: (319) 368-8857; jeff.linder@thegazette.com

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