Every night is tough playing in the Mississippi Valley Conference. The Western Dubuque girls’ basketball team knows that first-hand after dropping its fourth game in a row, Jan. 24, to Dubuque Senior, 43-34.

Coach Amy Ostwinkle saw plenty to be happy about during the Senior game.

“You could tell the girls were going to give everything they had in that game,” she said. “I know the final outcome wasn’t what we wanted, but tonight the girls played Bobcat basketball. That’s what I’ve always wanted.”

After Senior opened the contest with a 6-0 run, the Bobcats got back in it when Emma Gile scored three times from the free throw line and Jenna Fiedler hit a nice running jump shot on the baseline to make it 8-5 after a quarter.

Maddy Maahs scored on a nice left hook in the post to bring Western Dubuque within one, 8-7, but after Senior pounded the offensive glass to maintain possession, Ram guard Ella Noel hit a long three to make it 11-7. Fiedler answered with a three of her own to narrow the gap to one before a five-point scoring spree by Senior’s Lindsey Eimers put her team up 16-10, but the Rams would go scoreless the final 4:51 of the quarter.

Scores by Ashley Costello and Maahs had the Bobcats within two with 1:30 remaining before Gile hit one of two to make it 16-15. Fiedler then hit a buzzer-beater from near mid-court to give Western Dubuque its first lead of the night, 18-16, heading to the break.

Senior scored the first five points of the second half before a three from Gile tied things up, 21-21. A 9-0 run by Senior had the Bobcats in trouble, but another lefty hook plus one from Maahs cut the lead to five. Maahs was fouled shooting a desperation three as time expired and made 2-of-3 to end the period with Senior leading 30-27.

Freshman Anna Kruse hit a pair of free throws to put the Rams on top, 32-27. Two charity tosses from Costello and a long step-back three-pointer from Fiedler tied it up, 32-32, with 5:40 to go, but the lid was over the basket for the Bobcats the rest of the way.

“Senior put a lot of pressure on Jenna and Maddy Maahs,” said Ostwinkle. “It makes some of our other players step up and handle the ball, and they have to want the ball in their hands. I don’t think we’re quite at that comfort level yet. It’s a confidence thing and we’re working on it.”

Senior spread the court, regaining the lead on a drive by Kruse with four minutes remaining, and extended that to six, 38-32, on another driving score by Kruse with under two minutes to go. The Rams went 5-of-6 from the line the rest of the way before Gile’s post score with 12 seconds left ended a five-minute Western Dubuque dry spell to make the final 43-34.

“This was an emotional game,” Ostwinkle said. “It’s a game you want to be competitive in because you learn from it. We learned a lot just in that final five-minute stretch tonight.”

Leading WD against Dubuque Senior were: scoring — Fiedler 11, Maahs 10, Gile nine, Costello four; rebounds — Gile 12, Maahs six, Kluesner four, Costello three, Fiedler and Goodman one; assists — Fiedler one; steals — Maahs three, Gile two, Fiedler, Kluesner and Costello one; blocks — Maahs two, Gile and Kluesner one.

Earlier in the week, the Bobcats dropped a competitive contest at Cedar Rapids Kennedy, Jan. 20, 60-47, before falling to No. 4 Cedar Rapids Prairie, 71-35, at home Jan. 21.

At Kennedy, the Bobcats trailed by four, 26-22, at the half, and it was 43-38 after three quarters before the Cougars pulled away in the final eight minutes to win by 13 points.

“This was one of our best overall games of the season. The girls really held their own against another 5A opponent,” said Ostwinkle.”I thought our players did a great job of executing the game plan and taking away Kennedy’s two best shooters.”

“Starting the fourth quarter, we were only down by five and were matching Kennedy’s runs,” she added. “We also had balance in our scoring with five players contributing big shots for us. The girls are continuing to make progress and are becoming more disciplined on both ends of the floor.”

Western Dubuque’s leaders against Kennedy were: scoring — Fiedler 14, Maahs 12, Gile eight, Costello seven, Kluesner six; rebounds — Costello 10, Maahs six, Gile and Kluesner four, Maddie Harris and Goodman two; assists — Fiedler and Maahs three, Costello and Maahs one; steals — Fiedler three, Kluesner, Maahs and Gile two, Costello one; blocks — Gile two.

The following night, Prairie led only 15-12 after one quarter, but a 26-8 blitz in the second had things out of reach by the halftime break. The Bobcats only managed 15 points in the second half, and the talented Hawks improved to 12-0 on the season.

“We were a little short-handed with Jenna Fiedler out and Sierra Hill still out. Prairie is a team you need to have full man-power against in order to compete for four quarters,” said Ostwinkle. “We had a strong first quarter and were only down three before Prairie went on a run we couldn’t recover from. Prairie is undefeated and you can see why — they capitalize on any small mistake you make.”

“I’m extremely proud of how hard our girls played this week. Although it may not show in the win column, they made strides in the right direction this week. Hopefully, we can get everyone healthy and continue to stay disciplined as we head into the final and most important stretch of the season.”

Western Dubuque’s statistics against Prairie: scoring — Gile 13, Maahs 12, Costello four, Abigail Kluesner and Maddie Goodman two, Sydney Hill and Jordyn Thole one; rebounds — Gile seven, Kluesner six, Maahs five, Costello three; assists — Maahs three, Goodman, Costello and Kluesner two, Gile one; steals — Maahs two, Goodman one.