MAROA — The top-seeded Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin Blue Devils faced the Unity Rockets in an IHSA Class 2A Maroa-Forsyth Regional final on Friday night at Maroa-Forsyth High School.
In a tightly-contested game in front of an energetic crowd, Unity pulled out a 56-53 victory.
In a fast-paced first half, BHRA jumped out to an early first-quarter lead of 19-11, fueled by Emma Clapp’s three 3-pointers and Sophia Rome’s six points.
Unity answered with a flurry of offense in the second quarter, scoring 22 points, including six 3-pointers. The half ended with a deep 3-pointer from Elyse Knudsen, her fourth of the half, to give the Rockets a 33-26 cushion.
Knudsen and Chloe Reed accounted for all of Unity’s first-half scoring, with 18 points and 15 points respectively. All of Reed’s first-half points were from beyond the arc. Emily Meidel scored all of BHRA’s second-quarter points, keeping the Blue Devils within striking range heading to intermission.
“We got off to a bad start, down 13-2 or whatever, but then we came back and hit some shots. I thought Chloe Reed hit some huge shots in the first half,” said Unity coach, Dave Ellars.
Blue Devils coach Mike Stephens felt the second quarter was the difference in the game.
“Unity hit a spot in the second quarter where they really shot the ball well and they got themselves a little distance from us at that point and really, the rest of the night was just us trying to fight back from the seven or eight points we lost in the second quarter,” Stephens said.
The third quarter scoring started out with three-pointers from both Clapp of Bismarck and Reed of Unity. Both teams traded baskets midway through the third and with 4:58 remaining in the third quarter, Unity led 40-33. Meidel then made some key shots late in the quarter to help BHRA cut the Unity lead to five. Following Unity’s Martina Miebach’s first points of the night, Clapp made two free throws. Knudsen ended the quarter with a layup to put Unity up 46-39 heading into the final frame.
The momentum in the early portion of the fourth quarter favored the Blue Devils. Led by Meidel and Rome, they cut the Rocket lead to three with 5:20 remaining. Meidel’s presence inside continued to challenge the Unity defense, and she made two free throws with 3:27 remaining to cut the Rocket lead to 50-48.
Knudsen reasserted her dominance in the final quarter, as she blocked a Meidel shot and then converted on back-to-back Unity possessions to create a 53-48 advantage.
Meidel would not go away. She nailed a three-pointer from the top of the key and the Blue Devils cut it to two. Knudsen answered to extend the lead to four, but Sierra Bryant made two free throws for BHRA to close the gap to 55-53.
BiHRA fouled Unity’s Maddie Reed with 22 seconds left. Reed made one of two from the line to extend the Rocket lead to three. The Blue Devils were unable to connect on their final possession, and Unity (22-9) now advances to Sectionals.
Knudsen led the Rockets with 31 points, followed by Reed’s 18 points.
When asked what he was most satisfied with from the night, Ellars cited the Rockets’ defense, especially on Meidel.
“She’s a great basketball player, and I thought our kids did a great job,” Ellars said.
Meidel led BHRA with 21 points, followed by Clapp with 14 points and Rome with 10 points.
Stephens proudly reflected on the Blue Devils’ season.
“These four seniors have just been great this year. We’ve got ten total kids on our team. They all pull for each other. They’re a tight group,” Stephens said. “We won a lot of big ball games, won a county title and got to the championship game of the regional. It’s been a good year.”