There’s a saying that goes “defense wins championships”. Right in line with that saying was the Van Meter High School girls basketball team Tuesday, Feb. 18 as the Bulldogs utilized exceptional defensive play to end up on the winning end of a 44-25 in postseason play.

It was the postseason opener for both the Bulldogs and their opponent in conference foe Interstate-35. With the help of the exceptional defense by Van Meter, the Bulldogs not only pulled off their eighth straight win over the Roadrunners but punched their ticket to the next round of postseason play.

Defense truly was the name of the game for the Bulldogs, so much so that they held I-35 to just three first-quarter points to begin the contest. That gave Van Meter and commanding early lead 16-3 heading into the second quarter. The backcourt dominance was perhaps the best Van Meter has delivered all season especially across the entire first half where they forced I-35 to just two made field goals and a mere eight points. It was an exciting defensive effort from the Bulldogs and gave fans a lot to cheer about. It was one of the biggest highlights of the night for coach Olson and his squad.

“Defense kept us in the game all night long and we made it tough for them to score,” began Olson. “They did a good job forcing them (I-35) to one shot per possession. The girls executed very well on defense and overall the defensive effort was outstanding.”

Not too far behind though was the offensive efforts for the Bulldogs who, aside from the very first bucket of the game, never trailed. Right out of the gates that included a sharpshooting attack by senior Clair Lauterbach who connected on three straight three-point buckets to begin the night for the Bulldogs. Lauterbach ended up hitting four total three-point shots on the night and has now moved into third place for most three-point field goals made across the Class 2A landscape with 60 on the season. It was quite the individual effort but it was all about the team for Clair after the game.

“The entire team did a great job moving the ball tonight offensively,” said Lauterbach. “Our inside out game was working well tonight and it gave me a lot of in rhythm shots.”

The offense as a whole in the first half shot 35 percent from the floor.

The second half of play held a very similar tune but perhaps the importance was felt no more significant than in the third quarter. That’s when the Bulldog offense fell a little cold missing their first eight shots offensively. In fact, Van Meter didn’t connect on a field goal until 1:35 left to play in the third quarter. With the help of the defensive effort, the Bulldogs came out of the third-quarter relatively unscathed allowing just six points while posting seven points late in the quarter. Van Meter offensively connected on 40 percent of their shots across the final quarter of play which helped to secure the 44-25 win and advance them onto the next round.

Offensively, the strong start by Lauterbach helped her capture 19 points to lead the team on the night followed by a near-perfect performance from Zoie Vaught. The sophomore chipped in ten points on a perfect 4-of-4 shooting night complete with two made free-throws on the night. Along with leading the team in points, Lauterbach also paced the team in steals with four, one of five Bulldogs to capture at least one steal on the night. Having already led the squad heading into the game, Jorja Hanselman led the way off the glass once again for Van Meter, hauling in ten total rebounds.

With fellow conference foe Woodward-Granger pulling out a narrow three-point win over Madrid, a rematch is in the works between the Bulldogs and the Hawks. Van Meter will enter the game with a 14-8 record battling up against a Woodward-Granger squad who just picked up their 18th victory of the season. Despite the challenge ahead of them, the Bulldogs will be seeking for a continuation of what has been a good all-time series for Van Meter. Entering Friday’s contest, the Bulldogs will be seeking their 16th straight win over the Hawks. The contest will begin from Van Meter High school beginning Friday, Feb. 21 at 7 p.m.