Thanks to a strong first quarter, the Van Meter girls basketball team managed to pull off the tough feat of beating a conference rival twice, toppling Woodward-Granger Friday night by a 48-36 final.

That first quarter meant an eight-point swing early combined with a defensive stand to end the first quarter on a 14-5 run. That would end up proving to be the biggest deciding factor in the game as the two teams were separated by just three points throughout the last three-quarters of play. It was a strong start that eluded the Bulldogs throughout half of the season and excited head coach Jay Olson.

“We didn’t have our slow start like we’ve had at times this season,” said Olson. “The girls made a strong stand early and it really helped out the rest of the way.”

Following the first quarter, it was a tightly contested contest with both teams posting 12 points across the second quarter, still leaving Van Meter with a nine-point lead at the half. The Bulldogs posted one of their lowest third-quarter scoring totals of the season with just six points. The fortunate thing for Van Meter was the fact that they held the visiting Hawks to just six points defensively. Van Meter then proceeded to drop 16 points across the fourth-quarter, a top-five mark for the Bulldogs in a fourth quarter.

There were positives all over the place for the Bulldogs including sophomore Zoie Vaught hauling in seven defensive rebounds marking a season-high to Josie Durflinger’s season-best in points with eight on the night. Ultimately both the offense and defense were operating at the highest level and several things came to mind as to the foundation beneath all of that.

“We had really good movement both on and off the ball tonight,” said Olson. “That helped us offensively and on defense, the girls did a good job forcing Woodward-Granger to some tough jump shots, some of which they made, but overall we made it pretty tough for them to get a clean shot off tonight.”

Leading the team offensively on an individual note was senior leader Clair Lauterbach who had a rather balanced attack with eight points from field goal range, six points from three-point range, and a near-perfect six-of-seven from the free-throw line. All together that meant 16 points on the night for Lauterbach marking her tenth-straight double-digit scoring effort. For the second straight outing, Vaught was second up on the team with ten points scored help of 50 percent shooting from the floor. L

Leading the rebounding efforts were Jorja Hanselman and Natalie Barth, both picked up eight rebounds on the night.

Next up on the docket for the Bulldogs will be the regional final Wednesday, Feb. 26 up against reigning state tournament participant North Linn. The battle will take place at Marshalltown High School beginning at 7 p.m.