Maquoketa Valley freshman Haley Ronnebaum came up big in the Wildcats’, 52-34, win against second-ranked, and reigning Class 2A state champs North Linn, Jan. 2 at home. The game between the Tri-Rivers West conference leaders snapped North Linn’s 12-game win streak.
The Wildcats held the Lynx to their lowest scoring output of the season due to strong defensive play. The Wildcats held the Lynx to single-digit points in three of the four quarters while scoring double-digit points in three of their own four quarters.
“She was huge,” coach Scot Moenck said of Ronnebaum, who had scored 19 points in the Wildcats’ first seven games. “She came in and played with a tremendous amount of confidence. We knew going into this game it wasn’t going to be easy. North Linn has a great tradition of basketball. They are a very well-coached team with a lot of talented players. We knew we had to play some of our best basketball to date to have a chance to win.”
Both teams’ defenses were on display in the first quarter with North Linn taking a slim 8-6 lead into the second quarter. But it was the Wildcat defense that prevailed, holding North Linn without a field goal in the last 11 minutes of the first half. Ronnebaum hit two back-to-back three-pointers midway through the second quarter to spark a 17-2 run for a 23-10 halftime lead. A key factor to their lead and dominance was the strong play from the girls off the bench. Sophomore Erin Knepper provided some quality minutes on both ends of the court as did fellow sophomore Kennedy Rausch.
“We really paid attention to detail defensively,” said Taya Tucker. “We didn’t let them get a lot of open looks on the perimeter, and we were able to close out.”
The Wildcats maintained a double-digit lead throughout the second half by being aggressive on the defensive end, causing North Linn to turn the ball over multiple times and getting their starters into foul trouble. Junior Kylie Chesnut and senior Ella Imler played solid on the defensive end and Imler provided her Wildcat teammates with scoring opportunities throughout the game running the Wildcat offense. Tucker contributed a team-high 15 points and was a force on the defensive end. Emerson Whittenbaugh added 12 points, eight rebounds and five assists.
“We knew we were better,” Whittenbaugh said. “It was kind of our three seniors against their two freshmen, and we were able to physically push them around a little on the boards.”
Following the game, Moenck said, “We had some kids on our team really step up and pay some meaningful minutes. Haley Ronnebaum, Kennedy Rausch, and Erin Knipper did an amazing job coming off of the bench and playing some really good basketball on both ends of the court for us. We got in some early foul trouble and those kids kept us in the lead.
“I was very pleased with our composure throughout this game. We never got rattled. We did a very nice job of staying patient on offense and disciplined on defense. We talked with our kids that win or lose this was just another game. We can’t get caught up in the rankings and all that other stuff. We need to continue to focus on us and getting better each and every night we take the court. We still have a way to go but the potential is there.”
Complete statistics were not available at press time.