PLEASANT HILL – For three quarters, North Polk was in position to get past Williamsburg in a Class 3A regional final battle to get to state between two top-10 teams Saturday in Pleasant Hill.
But the Comets were unable to finish the job, struggling down the stretch in a 65-47 loss.
North Polk – ranked No. 7 – trailed No. 5 Williamsburg 30-26 at the half. The Comets played the Raiders to a near-standstill in the third as they faced a 47-42 deficit going into the fourth quarter.
But in the final period North Polk went flat on offense. Meanwhile, Williamsburg point guard Paige Greiner took over – finishing with a game-high 31 points.
“The game was closer than the final score indicates,” North Polk head coach Clint Albertsen said. “It was tied in the middle of the third quarter, but Greiner just made too many plays down the stretch.”
Greiner finished 9 of 16 from the field, 2 of 6 from 3-point range and 11 of 13 from the line. She also had four rebounds, three assists and two steals.
“Greiner is the best point guard we have seen all year,” Albertsen said. “She is very difficult to contain and makes everyone on their team better.”
North Polk shot just 16 of 51 from the field and 5 of 20 from 3-point range. The Comets hung tough for three quarters by controlling the boards as they outrebounded Williamsburg 34-24, including 18-8 on the offensive glass.
Miranda Murphy had 21 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks and Megan Murphy finished with 19 points, two steals and one assist in their final game for the Comets. Rachel Zimmermann added three points, Hannah Becker finished with two points and three blocks and Macy Gill tacked on two points, two steals and one block.
“We had a great season,” Albertsen said. “Megan and Miranda provided great leadership and will be very hard to replace. Our young kids really improved throughout the season.”
North Polk finished at 19-5.
Williamsburg improved to 22-2. Claire Simmons had 10 points and three assists and Tina Lane chipped in seven points and eight rebounds to help advance the Raiders to the state tournament.
Williamsburg 65, North Polk 47
NP 16 10 16 5 – 47
W 16 14 17 18 – 65
North Polk (47) – Macy Gill 0-6 2-4 2, Megan Murphy 7-24 1-2 19, Hannah Becker 1-3 0-2 2, Maddy Hill 0-2 0-0 0, Rachel Scott 0-0 0-0 0, Riley Murphy 0-1 0-0 0, Miranda Murphy 7-13 7-10 21, Rachel Zimmermann 1-2 0-0 3, Rebecca Rimathe 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 16-51 10-18 47. 3-point field goals (5): Me. Murphy 4, Zimmermann. Rebounds (34): Mi. Murphy 11. Assists (1): Me. Murphy. Steals (6): Gill 2, ME. Murphy 2. Blocks (6): Becker 3.
Williamsburg (65) – Sadie Ritchie 2-6 0-0 6, Tina Lane 3-10 0-0 7, Olivia Bigbee 2-7 0-0 0, Claire Simmons 2-5 5-6 10, Paige Greiner 9-16 11-13 31, Maeve Broeg 1-3 0-0 2, Haylee Huedepohl 2-4 0-0 5. Totals: 21-51 16-19 65. 3-point field goals (7): Ritchie 2, Greiner 2, Lane, Simmons, Huedepohl. Rebounds (24): Lane 8. Assists (11): Greiner 3, Simmons 3. Steals (5): Bigbee 3. Blocks (1): Ritchie.
ALLEMAN – Successful pressure defense from three-quarters court press in the second half combined with a big night on the offensive glass to help North Polk overcome a bad shooting night, knocking off I-35, 53-45, Feb. 19 in Class 3A regional semifinal play at Alleman.
North Polk trailed 34-31 early in the third quarter. The Comets were having a rough time stopping I-35’s half-court offense and were in need of a spark with their season on the balance.
Using the three-quarters court trapping press yielded some success in the first half. In the third quarter, Comet head coach Clint Albertsen really turned up the pressure.
“We just applied a lot of pressure,” North Polk senior forwards Miranda Murphy said. “Our main goal was to fluster them and get some steals.”
It worked. The Comets went on a 12-2 run to completely swing the tide in their favor.
A Hannah Becker putback and basket from Murphy gave North Polk its first lead of the half at 35-34. Gracey Griglione scored inside to briefly regain the lead for I-35, but Murphy scored off a steal; her sister Megan followed with another steal and hoop, then Rachel Zimmermann also got in the act with a steal and bucket.
Miranda capped the run by stealing the ball near midcourt and dribbling in for two to give the Comets a 43-36 lead. Miranda really benefitted from the press as she played like a free safety in football – hanging back at midcourt and anticipating the passing lanes when North Polk double-teamed the ball handler.
“We worked on it in practice a lot this week,” Miranda said. “We were just ready.”
The closest I-35 could get in the fourth quarter was 45-40. But a basket from Miranda, a Becker score off a feed from Megan and another Zimmermann hoop pushed North Polk’s lead to 11 and the Comets coasted over the final three minutes to wrap up the victory.
Miranda finished with a game-high 21 points on 10 of 16 shooting from the field.
After the game Miranda was honored for a milestone she reached on Feb. 8 versus Prairie City-Monroe. Miranda became the leading 5-on-5 scorer in school history, surpassing Megan Howard (1,439 points from 2006-10).
“That was cool,” Murphy said. “It was a fun accomplishment.”
Miranda’s role in the press also resulted in a game-best five steals. She added five rebounds and one block.
Becker – a freshman – stepped up with nine points inside. She also led North Polk’s charge on the offensive glass.
The Comets posted a whopping 20-1 margin on the offensive glass and Becker snared five of those offensive boards. Even though she was banged around a bit by Griglione inside, Becker led her team with eight rebounds overall.
“It’s hard being pushed around as a tall girl,” Becker said, “but I just get in there and try my hardest. (Griglione) was aggressive and she was good, but I hung in there.”
Maddy Hill – another freshman – also was tough inside for North Polk. Hill recorded eight points and six rebounds.
The offensive rebounding and pressure defense offset North Polk’s 0 of 13 night from 3-point range and 7 of 21 showing from the foul line.
Macy Gill chipped in six points and four steals and Zimmermann ended up with six points and one assist. Megan Murphy finished with just three points after getting in early foul trouble, but she helped the team out in other ways – contributing three rebounds, two steals and one assist.
I-35 lost despite shooting at a strong 61 percent clip from the field as a team (17 of 28).
Griglione finished with 16 points and seven blocks for the Roadrunners. Freshman Slye Richardson tallied 13 points, five rebounds and two assists; Riley Morris delivered 10 points, nine rebounds and three blocks and Brooke Brommel tacked on nine rebounds and five assists for I-35.
North Polk 53, I-35 45
I-35 14 16 8 7 – 45
NP 15 14 16 8 – 53
I-35 (45) – Taylor Roth 0-0 0-0 0, Caylin Brommel 2-3 0-1 5, Slye Richardson 4-8 2-2 13, Charlie Rupp 0-2 1-2 1, Riley Morris 5-5 0-0 10, Brooke Brommel 0-2 0-0 0, Gracey Griglione 6-8 4-6 16. Totals: 17-28 7-11 45. 3-point field goals (4): Richardson 3, Brommel. Rebounds (27): Morris 9, B. Brommel 9. Assists (14): B. Brommel 5. Steals (3): Richardson, Rupp, Morris. Blocks (11): Griglione 7.
North Polk (53) – Macy Gill 3-6 0-0 6, Megan Murphy 1-9 1-2 3, Hannah Becker 4-13 4-5 9, Maddy Hill 2-4 4-9 8, Riley Murphy 0-2 0-0 0, Miranda Murphy 10-16 1-6 21, Rachel Zimmermann 3-7 0-0 6, Rebecca Rimathe 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 23-57 7-21 53. 3-point field goals: None. Rebounds (31): Becker 8. Assists (2): Me. Murphy, R. Murphy. Steals (13): Mi. Murphy 5. Blocks (1): Mi. Murphy.