Think of the most exciting state title game you can remember. Now amplify that by ten and you had arguably the most exciting round one state tournament match-up in history between the second seeded Waukee Warriors and the seventh seeded Dowling Catholic Maroons Monday afternoon.
Regulation was not enough to hold in the magic that was Waukee vs. Dowling Catholic, as it took three overtime frames to decide a victor. Unfortunately for the Waukee Warriors, they left Wells Fargo Arena with their season at an end due to a 75-70 defeat.
Regardless of the outcome, it was quite a contest to behold and one that could easily be deemed worthy of a state title game, complete with 11 ties, 14 lead changes, and 145 total points, one of the highest opening round scores in recent history. The overtime thriller marked the 14th state tournament contest to head into extra frames since 2011, and just the second time in nine seasons where a state tournament game went to three overtimes. It was a game that provided the utmost excitement for fans and the most hair pulling for coaches as no team had much of an edge at any one point in the contest. In fact, the largest lead of the game came with 6:20 left in the first quarter when Dowling held an eight point advantage.
The contest began on a more ominous tone for the Warriors who despite shooting 50 percent from the floor and 42 percent from three point range, found themselves in a 22-16 first quarter deficit. Part of the challenge early on for Waukee was finding their way close to the rim as the Warriors posted just ten field goal attempts in the opening quarter, one of their lowest marks all season. Down in the low post, the normally potent combination of Taryn Reitsma and Paityn Rau was held rather quiet Another challenge would come at the three point line as a hot Dowling Catholic roster connected on five of their 13 total three point shots in the first quarter alone.
The contest certainly had its fair share of twists and turns but perhaps one of the more notable negative turns against Waukee came in the rebounding department. The Maroons captured nearly ten points off of second chance opportunities as they out rebounded the Warriors 21-10 in the first half alone, something Warrior head coach Chris Guess talked about following the contest.
“Normally we are a strong rebounding team but tonight we didn’t do as well off the boards,” began Guess. “Dowling played better in the rebounding department and gave themselves second and third chance opportunities. They did the better job on capitalizing on those extra opportunities especially in the first half.”
Waukee brought themselves back into the contest with the help of five straight made free throws to outscore Dowling 11-9 in the second quarter. Both teams then took to the halftime break with Waukee trailing 31-27. Dowling may have taken the third quarter 13-12, but Waukee stole the show in the fourth quarter, shooting 40 percent from both two point range and three point range to outscore the Maroons 10-5 and force extra time.
The Warriors practically lived inside the paint especially in the second half and overtime frames. In total the Warriors collected nearly 30 percent of their point total in the paint with 12 of the 20 points in the paint coming in the overtime frames.
Defense reigned supreme in the overtime frames and along with a few questionable calls, neither team could pull away forcing a 7-7 tie following the first overtime frame and an 8-8 tie following the second overtime frame. Despite just five free throws attempted in the first half, Dowling Catholic produced 13 points off of free throws, a majority of which came in the final overtime frame to secure a season ending loss for Waukee.
A big thorn in the side of the Warriors was Caitlin Clark, who went wild from the floor with 39 field goal attempts and 19 three point attempts. Clark pulled in a whopping total of 42 points on 14 connections from two point range and seven made shots from beyond the three point arc. Clark also disrupted Waukee off the boards as she led all players with ten total rebounds.
Waukee was led by the great play of Katie Dinnebier, who led the team with 10-of-14 field goal shooting and five made three point baskets. For her efforts, Dinnebier ended the night with 31 total points scored, one of the highest individual scoring marks of her career. Jori Nieman touched up her seventh double figure scoring night with 20 points. Nieman has always had a knack for finding the rim and against Dowling, that came in the form of free throws. Nieman was sent to the free throw line for 18 total attempts, eleven more than anyone else on the Warrior roster. She connected on 13 of Waukee’s 21 total free throws made.
While it wasn’t the ending the Warriors would have wanted, it still was a stellar season and one that Nieman herself won’t soon forget.
“This season has been amazing and so fun to be involved in,” started Nieman. “To accomplish what we have is something very few teams do and to be a part of that is something I’ll never forget.”
Waukee will be graduating four senior players from their varsity roster and all four from Paityn Rau, to Jori Nieman, and Anna Brown to Kat Moody, every senior had a major impact on the success of 2018-19, something coach Guess touched on following the game.
“These seniors were extremely important to our success this year,” began Guess. “The experience that they provided game in and game out was so valuable to us not only from a team stand point but also in terms of helping out the younger girls. With them on the court I could always breath easier and know that we’d be able to get out of any sticky situation we were in. A great group of girls and I’m so happy that I was able to coach them.”
All four of the Warrior senior stars contributed to 50 percent of the team’s overall scoring for the entire season. The Warriors as a team end their season with an 18-5 overall record and a mark of 4-2 inside conference play.