With a three-point lead over Lone Tree and just over six seconds on the clock, Iowa Mennonite School’s Alyssa Hershberger stepped to the free-throw line for a one-and-one opportunity.
The ball went up and in to make the game a two-possession game and effectively sealed Iowa Mennonite’s first win since Feb. 2, 2016.
“I started crying on the court, I was just so happy,” Suzanna Yoder said. “When Payton (Hart) made her first free throw I said okay now we have a three-point lead and then Hersh made her next ones and now it’s like I can actually accept winning.”
After that Lone Tree rushed down the court but a Riley Warson 3-point shot was too late and the buzzer sounded giving Iowa Mennonite the 45-43 victory.
The big key to the Iowa Mennonite win was the scoring and rebounding from IMS freshman Yani Gutierrez, who couldn’t miss from the 3-point arc in the second half. She had 16 total points, including four second half 3-point shots and 12 rebounds. Gutierrez hit those from nearly the same spot, but she said after the game it just kind of happened, that spot isn’t necessarily somewhere where she feels super comfortable from.
“The last shot I made it went up and I really didn’t even realize where I was at on the floor,” Gutierrez said.
With 2:16 left in the third quarter Gutierrez hit one of her 3-point shots that tied the game at 25. On the next Iowa Mennonite possession she hit another to give Iowa Mennonite the lead at 28-27. Iowa Mennonite never lost the lead after this point.
“It feels like a lot of hard work paid off especially because my teammates stepped up this game, more than any other game,” Yoder said. “It feels like everything’s coming together and it feels like a really good way to start a season.”
Yoder had 13 points on the night, but said it took a lot of pressure off her by being able to look for Gutierrez and knowing she was hitting nearly everything.
“I wasn’t hitting shots today and I felt like I could take some pressure off myself and look for Yani,” she said.
While Iowa Mennonite never lost the lead, things certainly got scary near the end despite a 10-point lead with less than three minutes remaining.
With 51.4 remaining Lone Tree’s Ashley Musser hit a 3-point shot that closed the gap to 42-40 and Iowa Mennonite took a timeout. From there the Lone Tree defense pressured IMS in the right way and forced a turnover, giving them the ball back. They were then unable to convert on that possession and Iowa Mennonite got the ball back with 20.9 seconds remaining.
Lone Tree intentionally fouled Payton Hart, who hit the first of the one-and-one before missing the second and giving Iowa Mennonite a 43-40 lead. Lone Tree couldn’t convert a basket on the other end and eventually Hershberger was fouled and clinched the game.
The win felt pretty sweet for the IMS girls.
“Oh, man it just feels really good, I just feel for the rest of the girls because they earned it and worked really hard for it,” Gutierrez said.
In the past, Iowa Mennonite has struggled with spreading the scoring around but against Lone Tree six players scored including the 16 from Gutierrez, 13 from Yoder, eight from Avery Blauvelt, three each from Hershberger and Hart and two points from Angela Marcelino off the bench.
Lone Tree was paced by Warson, who had 17 points and 13 rebounds. They also saw a strong performance from Emily Feldman, who had nine total rebounds and five offensive rebounds that led to six points on 3-of-4 shooting.
Now with the win under their belts, the Iowa Mennonite girls are hoping to use it as a springboard to continue to win games.
“Before, it kind of felt like we were playing to just play, and tonight I realized what it feels like to play to win and do the things we need to do to win,” Yoder said. “It was really fun for my teammates to step up and it feels like we can get a lot more wins this season.”
Lone Tree: 12;9;6;16;43
Iowa Mennonite: 10;6;16;13;45
Field goals 15-49
3-point field goals 6-11
Free throws: 9-12
Field goals 18-60
3-point field goals 7-27
Free throws 0-2
Yani Gutierrez 16
Suzanna Yoder 13
Riley Warson 17
Ashley Musser 12
Alyssa Hershberger 10
Emily Feldman 9
Payton Hart 1
Madeline Jacque 5