DES MOINES — One player had to lead the charge, but it took the cavalry to win the battle.
Behind a complete team effort, top-ranked Grundy Center found a little bit of redemption Friday morning at Wells Fargo Arena.
With a 59-49 victory over defending Class 2A state champion Cascade, the Spartans not only avenged their 2018 championship game loss to the Cougars, but earned the right to play for another state title.
“The last time we lost was against them,” senior point guard Hailey Wallis said. “So coming into this game we were really pumped up. Kind of our theme coming into this season was redemption. It was just perfect we got to play against them to achieve that.”
Grundy Center will face third-ranked Treynor (25-1), at 5 p.m. Saturday. The Cardinals have reached the state semifinals each of the last two seasons and fell to the Spartans, 42-39, a year ago in the semifinals.
Friday, Wallis led the Spartans with 25 points, 21 in a decisive second half.
But victory would not have been if Maddie McMartin and Cora Saak hadn’t made it tough on Cougar star Nicole McDermott. Or if Brooke Flater had not cleaned up 10 rebounds. Or if Sydney Matthews and Reegan Zinkula were not perfect from the free throw line down the stretch.
“It is very, very hard to do,” Grundy Center head coach Matt Lindeman said of getting back to the championship game. “Especially in this 2A field. We’ve got a ton of respect for everybody that made it to the state tournament.
“So it was grind it out, but very symbolic of this team. They are going to grind. They are going to get after it. It isn’t always going to be pretty, but they are going to find ways to get it done and more often than not we have.”
Don’t forget about a Spartan bench that outscored its counterparts, 10-0.
“We know us starters if we’re not getting it done, someone is going to come in and step up for us,” senior guard Maddie McMartin said. “The bench was awesome.”
Trailing 17-16 after a back-and-forth first half, Grundy Center made its move right out of the gates in the third quarter.
After McDermott converted a conventional three-point play to put Cascade up by four, Wallis ignited a 6-0 run that put Grundy Center ahead 22-20.
McDermott tied it with 6:03 left before a pair of Wallis free throws with 5:33 to go put Grundy Center back ahead. The Spartans never trailed again.
Matthews and Zinkula each hit big 3-pointers, and a Zinkula jumper with 11 seconds left capped a 19-4 run that put Grundy Center up 37-26 with eight minutes to go.
“A lot of things went into that,” Wallis said. “We had good passing going on. Our defense was phenomenal. We did a great job all around.
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“Obviously, going into the half we were down by one, and I don’t think we were happy with that. We came out firing in that third quarter and that was important for us,” Wallis continued.
Wallis hit a 3-pointer 20 seconds in the fourth to push the lead to 14, and Cascade was playing catch-up the rest of the way. The Spartans hit 15 of 18 free throws in the fourth to seal the victory.
“We were just trying to stay one step ahead, and I’m proud of my girls. We made plays when we needed, too,” Lindeman said. “That big run in the third quarter was huge.
“Kids knocked down shots, which was huge, and we finished at the line.”
There was a short on-court celebration after the final seconds ticked off the clock, but it was much more subdued in the lockerroom after.
“We are not happy, yet,” Lindemen said. “It was not a celebratory moment like we had done something special in there just a little bit ago. We were excited, but we have one more job to do, yet.”
The win may also give Grundy Center a chance to repeat history.
In 2004, the Spartans lost to Underwood in the 2A state title game. A year later, they beat Tri-Center to win the school’s only state title.
“History might be destined to repeat itself,” Wallis said. “We are hoping that is the case tomorrow.
“Obviously, we are not done, yet.”
Grundy Center 59, Cascade 49
CASCADE (23-2) — Nicole McDermott 8-11 10-10 26, Skylar Dolphin 2-7 0-0 5, Jordan Simon 2-8 1-3 6, Abby Welter 5-13 0-3 10, Rachel Trumm 0-7 2-2 2, Robyn Takes 0-1 0-0 0, Jess Hoffman 0-0 0-0 0, Faith Bower 0-0 0-0 0, Ally Hoffman 0-1 0-0 0, Molly McElmeel 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 17-48 13-18 49.
GRUNDY CENTER (24-0) — Hailey Wallis 6-11 10-14 25. Maddie McMartin 3-3 3-4 10, Sydney Matthews 1-3 2-2 5, Kylie Willis 1-7 1-2 3, Brooke Flater 1-5 4-8 6, Reegan Zinkula 2-6 4-4 9, Sarah Lindeman 0-2 1-2 1, CoraSaak 0-1 0-0 0, Lainy Thoren 0-1 0-1 0. Totals 14-39 25-37 59.
Cascade 11 6 9 23 — 49
Grundy Center 12 4 21 22 — 59
3-point goals — Cascade 2-9 (Dolphin 1-3, Simon 1-4, Welter 0-1, Trumm 0-1). Grundy Center 6-18 (Wallis 3-7, McMartin 1-1, Matthews 1-2, Zinkula 1-5, Lindeman 0-1, Saak 0-1, Thoren 0-1). Rebounds — Cascade 28 (McDermott 6). Grundy Center 38 (Flater 10). Assists — Cascade 5 (McDermott 2). Grundy Center 8 (Willis 3, Flater 3). Turnovers — Cascade 16 (McDermott 6). Grundy Center 16 (Willis 5). Total fouls — Cascade 22, Grundy Center 17. Fouled out — Dolphin.