GRAHAM, Mo. — The season for the West Nodaway girls basketball team came to an end on Monday as the eighth-seeded Rockets ran into a buzzsaw in the form of the top-seeded Stanberry Bulldogs. The Bulldogs (22-3) lived up to their top-seed billing with a 76-4 victory in the first round of the Class 1, District 16 Tournament in Graham.
“This is a team that even when we had rough patches in the season, more than just basketball rough patches, we still kept playing, still showed up and never quit,” West Nodaway first-year coach Skyler Zimmerman said.
The game was the final one in a Rocket uniform for seniors Brittany McIntyre, Mackenzie Finney, Chloe Schimming and Jana Dow. Despite struggling to a 3-19 final record, Zimmerman was proud of the way his seniors led the team.
“They have set the physicality bar that we want at West Nodaway,” Zimmerman said. “We are not going to back down and we are going to play tough. Especially Brittany, when we are down by a lot of points there at the end, she is diving on the floor for a loose ball. Every inch she could get, she went and took.”
In the first couple minutes of the game, the Rockets seemed to surprise the Bulldogs with their hard-nosed defense. The lead was just 3-0 over four and a half minutes into the game as West Nodaway was locking down Stanberry’s prolific offense with its 1-3-1 zone defense.
“We put in a 1-3-1 a couple weeks ago and we picked up a win from it, came back in a game and almost won and held Jefferson to 26 points in the first half,” Zimmerman said. “I think it slows teams down and if we are active enough in the middle, they can’t get it inside and they have to force up a tough shot.”
The Bulldogs found different ways to score later in the quarter as they leaned on their press to create some havoc and get easy points. Stanberry also hit the offensive glass and all 18 of their first-quarter points came off either an offensive rebound or a Rocket turnover.
Zimmerman admitted that the game may have gotten more out of hand against a press like Stanberry’s earlier in the season, but he has been happy with the development of his young starting backcourt with freshman Piper Hunt and sophomore Erin Cook.
“If you watched our first game of the season, they probably each had 15 turnovers each,” Zimmerman said. “By the end of the season, we cut those down by more than half. We were able to handle the pressure a lot better.”
Despite taking better care of the ball than they have in the past, West Nodaway was unable to find the bottom of the net against the Bulldogs until the lead was 24-0. Finney ended the drought with a baseline drive and McIntyre scored her only point of the night on a free throw to make the score 24-3.
That was it for the first-half scoring for the Rockets as Stanberry took a 48-3 lead into the locker room.
West Nodaway freshman Riley Linville had the only point of the second half for the Rockets with a free throw in the third quarter.
Stanberry had 11 different players crack the scoring column and were paced by senior Lily Osborn and junior Sydney Mattson with 16 points each. Senior Madi Sager was a force in the rebounding department and scored all 13 of her points in the first half.
Lexi Craig added eight points while Elle Ellis and Ashley Peterson each had six, Sadie Runde had four and Peyton Gage, Allison Marticke and Kierstyn McMillen each had two. Morgan Wallace rounded out the scoring with one point.
Stanberry advanced to the semifinals to meet fifth-seeded Nodaway-Holt (15-7) on Wednesday night at 6 p.m. The Trojans advanced to the semifinals with a 50-45 victory over fourth-seeded Northeast Nodaway. The game was to be the first matchup of the year for the two schools.
As West Nodaway moves into the offseason, Zimmerman hopes his girls continue to work on their games. He says the key to the offseason is simple.
“Touching the basketball in the offseason,” Zimmerman said. “West Nodaway girls haven’t done that in a while. You have to get in the gym in the offseason. It is not just an in-season sport, you have to work in the offseason.”