DES MOINES — Hailey Wallis and Grundy Center nearly did it.
Looking for something, anything, the Spartans were in dire straits trailing by 13 points midway through the third quarter in Saturday’s Class 2A state championship game against Cascade.
Then, Wallis went into attack mode.
With 22 second-half points, she helped Grundy Center erase that deficit to tie the game at 37 on a pair of her free throws with 1 minute, 16 seconds left. The Spartans then had a shot to take the lead, but as was the case most of the night, it didn’t fall.
Cascade scored the final four points as the Cougars halted Grundy Center’s state tournament run with a 41-37 victory at Wells Fargo Arena.
“I kind of think what people are going to remember from this game even though we came up a little bit short is ...,” Wallis said breaking up. “What I think people are going to remember us most for is we never gave up. That is something we strive to do every game.”
While Grundy Center had a crack to take the lead and three cracks to tie it in the closing seconds, ultimately the loss came down to its 8 of 49 shooting, including 3 of 25 from 3-point range against a Cascade defense that did the same to each of its state tournament opponents.
The Spartans took a 15-14 lead with 7:38 left in the second quarter on a pair of Wallis free throws. Then, Grundy Center missed its next 20 shots, going 16 minutes over the second and third quarters without hitting a field goal as Cascade took a 22-15 halftime lead.
“They were very active with their hands, very quick and had a few long girls,” Wallis said.
Wallis finally broke the drought with a 3-pointer with 1:27 left in the third that made it 31-22. Trailing by nine to start the third, Wallis began attacking the basket and getting fouled. Eight-straight free throw makes by Wallis, the last four after steal and lay-up attempts where she was fouled, suddenly drew the Spartans within 33-32 with 5:32 to go.
Cascade responded with a 4-0 run, only to see Wallis hit a 3-pointer from 25 feet and a pair of foul shots with 1:16 left to tie it 37-37. Grundy Center then had a shot to take the lead, but the Cougars knocked the ball loose from a Spartan and Abby Welter made two free throws with 1:04 left that put Cascade up for good.
“Really proud of how our girls fought back and gave ourselves a chance,” Grundy Center head coach Matt Lindeman said. “What our girls really drive off is playing tough defense. As long as it is in single digits, we are in range.
“Just really proud of the effort and the way we fought back is so symbolic of what this team is about.”
Wallis made all 18 of her free throws in the game and finished the tournament with 55 points, earning all-tournament captain honors. Maddie McMartin joined Wallis on the all-tournament team.
“She did. She did,” Lindeman said of Wallis putting the team on her shoulders and nearly willing the Spartans to victory. “We thought the high-low game was going to be there, but Cascade does such a great job of collapsing and doing it quickly. Give them credit, they did a better job executing on defense than we did.”
Nicole McDermott led Cascade with 15 points, nine rebounds and eight steals. Anne Ryan added 13 and Jordan Simon 11.
Grundy Center returns all five of its starters and all eight members of its regular rotation for next season.
“It definitely gives us a lot of motivation, obviously,” Wallis said of the loss. “The 2004-05 team lost in the finals their first year (2004) and (won in 2005), so we are kind of motivated by that and just the fact we want to win. We don’t like losing. We don’t like this feeling.
“Only one team can finish happy and unfortunately it wasn’t us and we want to make sure next year.”
Cascade 41, Grundy Ctr. 37
GRUNDY CENTER (24-2) — Hailey Wallis 4-18 18-18 29, Maddie McMartin 0-5 0-0 0, Sydney Mathews 0-1 0-0 , Kylie Willis 2-8 0-1 4, Brooke Flater 2-7 0-0 4, Reegan 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 (25-3) — 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.
Grundy Ctr. 13 2 9 13 — 37
Cascade 14 8 11 8 — 41
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, Ryan 2-8, Simon 3-5, Ryan 0-2). Rebounds — Grundy Center 29 (Wallis 8). Cascade 40 (Trumm 12). Assists — Grundy Center 7 (Mathews 3). Cascade 8 (McDermott 4). Turnovers — Grundy Center 10 (Willis 2, Flater 2, Zinkula 2). Cascade 21 (Four with 4). Total fouls — Grundy Center 16, Cascade 15. Fouled out — None.