Despite two monster individual outings and a fourth-quarter surge, a late-game comeback was not meant to be and the Van Meter girls basketball team fell to Knoxville 64-56 Tuesday night.

It was a strong hometown crowd but unfortunately, an early hole was too much for the Bulldogs to climb out of and they suffered their second loss of the season. That hole included sputtering out of the gate to just four first-quarter points. That, in turn, backed the Bulldogs into a 12 point deficit following the conclusion of the first quarter.

Van Meter did pick things up in the second quarter scoring 13 points but it still wasn’t enough to stop a large deficit entering the halftime break of 26-17. Despite the slow start, it was a strong one for Bulldog senior Natalie Barth who paced the team at the half with eight points.

In the end, it was a tale of two halves as the Bulldogs came out of the second half gates extremely strong with a 10-2 run to begin the third quarter. Ultimately the Bulldogs outdueled the Panthers in the second half despite the loss and gave head coach Jay Olson a lot of confidence in his team’s late-game abilities going forward.

“I told them after the game that they really showed their ability to come back late in games,” began Olson. “I think we really grew up a lot from last Tuesday. I was really proud to see that fight in them that says we know what we are doing.”

Even with the strong third quarter, the Bulldogs still took to the fourth quarter down 46-30. The fourth quarter is where things really picked up for the host Bulldogs. It was the biggest showing of dominance from the senior pair of Barth and Clair Lauterbach who both ended the night with a whopping 20 points each. The team as a whole far exceeded Knoxville’s mark, outscoring the Lady Panthers 26-17. In the end, however, it wasn’t enough and the comeback attempt fell short, thus giving Van Meter their second loss of the 2019 campaign.

In the end, 12 second-half points for Barth and 18 second-half points for Lauterbach that led the pair to lead the team and the game with 20 points each. Following right behind were strong performances by junior Josie Durflinger and sophomore Maya Herman who walked away with seven and four points respectively. Fellow sophomore Zoie Vaught added three points but put forth an all-around night with five rebounds and five assists as well. Durflinger also chipped in three steals to the cause while the leader in rebounds went to high scoring Natalie Barth with ten rebounds on the night.

While phenomenal performances by barth and Lauterbach were extremely pleasant, it was also exciting to see the younger stars like Durflinger.

“We’ve had a lot of young girls take on varsity roles this season and every one of them have been great players for us,” began Olson. “All the younger girls are very scrappy and they all get after it defensively which is great to see out of underclassmen.”

While it may be disheartening to suffer the loss, the Bulldogs have been and always will be a team determined to improve. Before the Bulldogs battle Interstate-35 come Friday night, they will be focusing on one big aspect as noted by coach Olson.

“For us, improvement starts on the defensive side,” said Olson. “We need to come out with more intensity early on in games. We didn’t do a great job of that early on tonight and that put us in early holes.”

The chance to earn revenge and even up their early-season record will come on Friday, Dec. 6 as they welcome in I-35 to town for a conference contest beginning at 6 p.m.