Amy Ostwinkle’s youthful Western Dubuque girls’ basketball team dropped a pair of Mississippi Valley Conference games last week, but make no mistake, this Bobcat team gets better each time it steps on the floor.

Cedar Rapids Xavier rallied for a 51-47 win at Epworth, Dec. 15, before unbeaten Dubuque Senior used a strong second half to pull away from the Bobcats for a 66-51 victory, at Senior, Dec. 18.

“Our girls continue to battle and show growth in each game we play,” said Ostwinkle. “We’re continuing to get more balance on the offensive end as players get more comfortable playing at the varsity level.”

The Bobcats were sharp on both ends of the floor in the first half against Xavier. After the Saints jumped to a 6-0 lead in the first three minutes, a three-pointer and layup from Madison Maahs got Western Dubuque on the board.

Hailey Wulfekuhle’s three tied things at 8-8 before a ten-point explosion by Carson Koerperich put the Bobcats on top 18-10. A three-pointer by Natalie Leisen and a pair of hoops from Wulfekuhle put WD on top by 13, 25-12. After Xavier found some life in the final two minutes, Abigail Kluesner’s follow sent the teams to the break at 29-22.

“We came out very aggressive on the defensive end,” said Ostwinkle. “Our identity at Western Dubuque is to be aggressive defensively, and that leads to good offense. We were able to do that in the first half.”

The third period was all Xavier. After Koerperich’s drive gave the Bobcats a 33-25 lead, a 15-0 Saint run spanning seven minutes saw Xavier take a 40-33 lead with six minutes remaining.

“I thought we got a little tired in the third quarter. Our shots were off a bit and that’s when they made that run,” Ostwinkle said. “It’s a game of runs, and you just want to be the team that has the most runs.”

Western Dubuque answered with a flurry of its own, and when Brooklyn Firzlaff drew the foul on a scoring drive and converted the free throw, the Bobcats had come back to lead 44-43.

Kluesner’s follow up basket with 2:30 remaining put WD up by two at 46-44, but a pair of Bobcat turnovers led to Xavier baskets in a 5-0 Saints run. A pair of late Xavier free throws sealed the deal in a 51-47 win.

“Credit to Xavier — they made some defensive adjustments,” Ostwinkle said. “Our girls are learning every time they play.”

Western Dubuque statistics against Xavier: scoring — Koerperich 17, Maahs 10, Wulfekuhle nine, Kluesner five, Firzlaff and Leisen three; rebounds — Koerperich 10, Maahs eight, Wulfekuhle six, Firzlaff and Kluesner five, Morgan Mescher two; assists — Koerperich three, Maahs two, Firzlaff one; steals Koerperich four, Wulfekuhle two, Maahs and Kluesner one; team shooting — 19-of-58 (32.8%); team free throws — three-of-nine (33%).

The Bobcats led 13-10 after a quarter at Senior, and it was a 28-26 advantage for the Rams at halftime, before Senior pulled away for a 15-point win to move to 5-0 on the season as Western Dubuque fell to 2-5.

“We knew Senior had quick guards with size in the paint. In the first half our defensive rotation and coverage did a great job of limiting their outside looks and forcing them into tough shots,” said Ostwinkle. “When Senior made their run in the second half, they started to hit from beyond the arc after we started to wear down on help coverage and our closeouts.”

Freshman Koerperich and Maahs led with 12 points each, while two more freshmen — Firzlaff and Wulfekuhle — contributed nine and eight points respectively.

“Our girls are competing in each game and learning what it takes to be successful against 4A and 5A teams in the MVC,” Ostwinkle said. “ The players know the wins will come and the key right now is to improve every practice and game we have the opportunity to play this season.”

Western Dubuque statistics against Senior: scoring — Koerperich and Maahs 12, Firzlaff nine, Wulfekuhle eight, Mallory Feldmann and Haylee DeLong four, Kluesner two; rebounds — Koerperich nine, Maahs seven, Kluesner six, Firzlaff four, Wulfekuhle and Morgan Mescher three, DeLong one; assists — Koerperich four, Wulfekuhle and Maahs two, Firzlaff, Kluesner, Feldmann and DeLong one; steals — Koerperich five, Feldmann two, Mescher one; team shooting — 19-of-49 (38.9%); team free throws — nine-of-17 (52.9%).