When the Maquoketa Valley and Edgewood-Colesburg girls’ basketball teams played Nov. 26, at Ed-Co High School, in the season-opener for both teams, the Wildcats led 42-11 at halftime on the way to a 60-19 win.

The Tri-Rivers West Division rivals met for the second time this year, in Delhi, Jan. 21, and while Maquoketa Valley improved to 13-1 on the season with a 65-39 win, a much-improved Ed-Co squad gave the Wildcats all they wanted in the first half, trailing only 22-17, before a 28-14 third-quarter blitz turned a competitive contest into a 26-point MV win.

“I thought Ed-Co came out and smacked us in the mouth a little bit,” said Maquoketa Valley coach Scot Moenck. “They’re a lot better.”

The Wildcats struggled offensively early, something Moenck knows his team needs to deal with.

“We’ve been missing a lot of easy shots lately. Our scores show that,” he said. “It’s tough, because our kids are playing hard and going to the bucket hard. We’ve got to figure out ways to finish those shots.”

“Sometimes I need to remind myself we’re still pretty young,” Moenck added. “The girls are doing some good things.”

Ed-Co’s Bailee Helle got the Vikings on the board first with a three-pointer 15 seconds in, but Maquoketa Valley’s Ella Imler tied it up with the first of her three first-quarter threes on the Wildcats’ initial offensive possession.

The Vikings were up 11-6 after Rose Heuchelin hit from three-point range and Ella Aulwes scored on a follow plus one. Imler hit triple number three and Taya Tucker scored on an offensive putback to even things at 11-11 after one.

“Our girls were ready to play and they wanted it,” said Lange. “They weren’t scared stepping on the floor. I think our girls finally realized what we’ve been telling them — you’re a good team.”

After Helle hit another three to regain the lead for the Vikings, Brooke Elgin’s follow-up had the Wildcats within a point, and Imler’s fourth three of the half put MV on top 16-14.

Helle hit her second three-pointer of the period to tie things at 17-17 at the mid-point, but Tucker scored on a nice high-low to make it 19-17, and Imler scored three times from the charity stripe to give the Wildcats a five-point advantage at the half.

“That’s the hardest we’ve played with the best rebounding we’ve had all year,” said Ed-Co coach Jenny Lange. “We still had a lot of turnovers, but they were moving the ball forward type of turnovers, so we’re happy with all that.”

Maquoketa Valley looked like a different team after the break — turning up the tempo and getting after Ed-Co defensively.

“We needed to do that. We can’t come out flat,” said Moenck. “We constantly talk at our practices telling them we have to play so hard we make up for all the things we sometimes lack.”

Tucker’s steal and layup put the Wildcats up seven, 24-17, and baskets from Trista Elgin and Imler pushed the lead to double figures, 29-19. Ed-Co sophomore post Annie Hoffman’s second basket of the half narrowed the gap to eight, but when Trista Elgin connected for three from the wing at the five-minute mark, it was a 34-21 MV lead.

Erin Knipper scored inside and Trista Elgin hit another three to put the Wildcats up 17 at 39-22. The teams traded baskets when Helle scored for Ed-Co and Imler drove for two, and Natalie Wessel’s hoop made it a 15-point game at 41-26.

MV then hit three in a row from long range — two by Imler and one from Kennedy Rausch — to up the lead to 22 points, 50-28, before Ed-Co’s Lily Aulwes put three on the board to end the quarter 50-31.

The lid was on the basket for both teams the first three minutes of the fourth period before Brooke Elgin scored on a follow to up the lead to 52-31. MV made 8-of-9 free throws down the stretch and Avery Krapfl’s late three-pointer ended the scoring.

Maquoketa Valley was 21-of-54 from the field (39%), but shot better from beyond the arc, making 10-of-21 (48%), with Imler hitting six threes. MV was 13-of-20 from the free throw line.

Ed-Co was 13-of-47 (28%) from the field and made 8-of-9 free throws.

“We had 10 threes tonight, but we can’t just rely on that,” Moenck said. “We need to get shots going to the bucket, we need to get to the free throw line, and we need to get the game stopped so we can set up our press. When we did set our press tonight, Ed-Co dribbled right through it.”

Lange is looking for good things from the Vikings the rest of the season.

“Our record (3-11) doesn’t show our talent and sometimes we don’t show our talent,” she said. “We’ve played some good teams well for a quarter, but tonight I felt like we were there for all four quarters.”

Leading MV were: scoring — Imler 25, Tucker 10, Trista Elgin nine, Brooke Elgin five, Avery Krapfl and Kennedy Rausch three, Carissa Sabers, Paige Winter, Anna Deutmeyer, Ella Mensen and Erin Knipper two; rebounds — Tucker nine, Brooke Elgin five, Sabers and Imler four, Winter one; assists — Imler five, Tucker, Trista Elgin and Brooke Elgin two, Sabers one; steals — Sabers nine, Tucker eight, Brooke Elgin four, Imler three, Trista Elgin, Deutmeyer and Rausch one; blocks — Tucker and Brooke Elgin one.

Ed-Co’s leaders were: scoring — Helle 11, Ella Aulwes 10, Lily Aulwes five, Hoffman and Wessel four, Heuchelin three, Emma Pape two; rebounds — Hoffman 10, Wessel seven, Helle six, Ashley Hogan and Heuchelin three, Ella Aulwes two, Lily Aulwes one; assists — Ella Aulwes four, Helle two, Heuchelin and Wessel one; steals — Hoffman three, Lily Aulwes two, Heuchelin one; blocks — Wessel two.