Behind a performance not to soon be forgotten, the Waukee girls basketball team punched their ticket to the Class 5A title game with a commanding 88-65 victory over Waterloo West in semifinal action.
It was the first-ever battle with Waterloo West in tournament play, and it gave Waukee their first state title appearance since 2015 which was ironically the year the Warriors captured a state crown. From history of the past, Waukee made present history for the second straight outing Thursday. Following their opening-round victory where they captured one of the largest margins of victory in state tournament action, the Warriors posted 15 made three-point shots Thursday, setting a new state record across all classes.
It was a win that ended in quite impressive fashion but despite the final score, and even the final tally following the first quarter, it wasn’t the initial start head coach Chris Guess and the Warriors were hoping for. The Class 5A leader in three-point shooting got off to a rather icy start missing on their first seven three-point attempts. The mentally tough Warriors didn’t let that get to them and ultimately it did boil down to a mindset thing as Waukee still pushed through.
“It’s a numbers game really,” began Guess. “If you’re going to live and die from the outside you just can’t worry about it. You just have to keep firing away and that’s what we did.”
Waukee suffered just one deficit all game long and it was their largest deficit of their state tournament action (three points). Despite that and just 2-of-14 from three-point range, Waukee surged ahead and capped off the first quarter with a 20-12 lead. Perhaps the storyline of the second quarter was the pressure put on by the Warrior defense and the success had on the other end. In total, over 35 percent of Waukee’s points came off of 19 forced turnovers. A bulk of that came in the second quarter where Waukee took an eight-point advantage and bumped it up to an 18 point lead (46-28) at the halftime break.
Pretty much everywhere you looked Waukee was dominating and it didn’t matter who took the court for the purple and gold. Evidence of that was abundant as the Warrior bench outscored Waterloo alone 22-0. If that wasn’t enough, Waukee’s 16-second chance points could do the trick. Ultimately it was a continuation of that mentality that has kept Waukee dominant all season long and kept them dominant once again in the semifinals.
“At first our shots weren’t falling but everyone on the team just kept with it and we eventually started knocking down our shots,” said Katie Dinnebier. “That’s what we’ve worked for this whole season and it’s awesome to now move on to the title game.”
Even when fans thought the lead couldn’t grow any larger, Waukee’s 31 point third quarter did just that as with three minutes left in the third quarter, the Warriors held a 34 point advantage. Waterloo West shaved that lead down slightly, but Waukee still took to the final quarter with a commanding lead of 71-46. As the fourth and final quarter began, Waukee had just as many made three-point shots as Waterloo West had made free-throws.
On an individual note, Katie Dinnebier was her dominating self once again, torching Waterloo West for 25 points and missing just five shots all game long. The junior ended the game with 72 percent efficiency from field goal range and 75 percent from three-point range. In the biggest of moments, the junior has stepped up big and now she has totaled 80 points through three state tournament games dating back to last season. Dinnebier has now averaged 26 points per game in state tournament battles.
Another standout performance came from Peyton Kelderman who did it all with seven points scored, a team-best eight assists, all while hauling in a team-best six rebounds for the contest. As far as scoring went, fellow junior Lindsey Kelderman posted 17 points for the contest followed by Reagan Bartholomew with 15 points off the bench courtesy of 50 percent from the floor and 33 percent from three-point range.
Overall, Waukee shot 47 percent from two-point range, 40 percent from three-point range, and connected on 65 percent of their free-throws.
Now the 2019-20 season for Waukee boils down to one final game in the Class 5A title match tomorrow beginning at 6 p.m. The game will be against fellow CIML member Johnston, a team that has been one game short of the title match the last two seasons. It will be a rematch of a regular season battle in which Johnston came away with the victory. It marked the fourth straight win over the Warriors but Waukee will be searching for their 12th all-time victory against the Dragons in the title game. Waukee holds an 11-5 advantage heading into Friday’s contest.