Still Golden: Bishop Garrigan Secures Dynasty With Second Straight State Championship

by Tyler Lance
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The final item has finally been checked off of the to-do list for Bishop Garrigan girls basketball, as the Golden Bears capped off a dominant season with a thrilling 68-57 win over Newell-Fonda in the class 1A state championship game from Wells Fargo Arena, avenging 2020 and 2021 state title losses to the Mustangs and capturing the second state title in program history.

Senior Audi Crooks ended her Golden Bear career with one of her finest performances, one that cemented her place atop the state record books. Crooks scored 49 points, making tough catches and finishes in the midst of an athletic Mustang defense all night long, becoming the new single season scoring queen in the history of IGHSAU five-player basketball. Crooks’ 889 points this year surpass the previous mark of 859 set in 2003 by Rock Valley’s Deb Remmerde. The 49 points from Crooks also establish a new state tournament record, passing the previous record of 48 by former Pocahontas Area Indian Elle Ruffridge.

Crooks says she was so locked into the game, she didn’t realize she had surpassed Ruffridge’s record.

In her last dance in a Bishop Garrigan uniform, senior Molly Joyce proved herself to still be as good as championship gold, dishing out 10 assists to go with 11 points, as well as serving a central role in breaking Newell-Fonda’s vaunted full court press.

In spite of the ball pressure applied by the Mustangs all night long, the Bishop Garrigan perimeter players were able to land passes into the waiting arms of Crooks under the bucket. After a three pointer by freshman Emmi Bartolo put the Golden Bears up 29-24 with 1:38 left in the first half, Crooks took over the game, scoring 33 of Bishop Garrigan’s last 39 points, shooting 13/14 in the second half with the only miss being followed by an offensive rebound and putback.

Bishop Garrigan Head Coach Brandon Schwab says Joyce’s ability to split double teams led to Crooks getting the ball with opportunities to score throughout the fourth quarter.

The constant post touches by Crooks helped Bishop Garrigan build a 50-18 edge in points in the paint on the night. However, in order to score in the paint, the Golden Bears first had to get the basketball past Newell-Fonda’s nonstop full court press. Coach Schwab says the way the team was dealing with the press in the first quarter wasn’t sustainable, so he made an adjustment.

The first quarter started slowly offensively for both teams, but especially the Golden Bears, who finished the first eight minutes down 13-8, making just 3/10 shots from the field. Bishop Garrigan would get on track offensively in the second, scoring on their first three possessions with two Crooks layups and a three by sophomore Zoe Montag to take a 15-13 lead. The Montag three pointer kicked off the first of five lead changes in the first three and a half minutes of the second quarter. After Mustang senior Laney Hogrefe knocked down a left elbow jumper with 5:18 on the clock for the fifth lead change of the quarter, the Golden Bears would make another quick run, with a 9-0 spurt capped off by a Joyce jumper and a foul, resulting in a three point play and pushing the Golden Bears ahead 26-18 with 2:50 remaining in the period. The teams traded punches for the final couple minutes, as Bishop Garrigan entered the locker room up 33-26.

Following the cold first quarter start, Bishop Garrigan made 24/32 field goals the rest of the way, a 75% shooting clip, constantly finding high percentage looks against the Mustang defense. Joyce says it took Bishop Garrigan some time to adjust to the pressure, but once they did they could find Crooks time after time.

Newell-Fonda would trim Bishop Garrigan’s lead to three points on three separate occasions, and two points once in the third quarter, but could never get back in the lead. All four times the Mustangs cut the Golden Bear lead to one possession, Bishop Garrigan scored on their ensuing trip down the floor.

A three ball from in front of the Mustang bench by Newell-Fonda senior Emma Erickson trimmed Bishop Garrigan’s lead down to 39-37 with just over five minutes left in the third, but Joyce sprinted right back down the floor past the Mustang defense, lobbing it to Crooks who finished through contact for the quick two.

After a layup by Mustang senior Mia Walker, who would finish with 15 points on 5/10 shooting, trimmed Bishop Garrigan’s lead back to one possession at 48-45, the Golden Bears scored on five of their final six possessions of the third to take a 55-46 lead into the fourth.

Bishop Garrigan never let their lead sink below eight points in the fourth quarter, as a Crooks finish through contact and good foul shot with 2:06 left put her at 49 points and gave the Golden Bears a 68-54 lead, providing the final exclamation point. Coach Schwab says this group reach milestones few have ever accomplished.

Another key factor in victory for Bishop Garrigan was the rebounding battle, as the Golden Bears posted a 36-25 advantage on the glass. In addition to Crooks’ 16 boards, Abbie Capesius secured 12 rebounds to go with five assists.

The Mustangs were able to keep Bishop Garrigan off of the three point line, as the Golden Bears were just 2/5 from downtown, but high percentage shots around the rim had Bishop Garrigan finishing at 64.3% shooting from the field. Newell-Fonda shot 35.6% on field goals including a 7/21 mark on threes.

Bishop Garrigan had previously been defeated in state title games by Newell-Fonda 65-63 in 2020 and 66-52 in 2021, but were finally able to complete the last remaining item on their basketball bucket list with a championship game win over the Mustangs.

Newell-Fonda ends the season at 24-3, as their quest for a fourth state title in the past five years falls short. Mustang Head Coach Dick Jungers felt the pace wasn’t what it needed to be for his team to defeat the Golden Bears.

In addition to Mia Walker’s 15 points, Mary Walker added 11. All eight Newell-Fonda players who appeared in the game scored. Coach Jungers said this year’s team was a special group that grew up in the program.

Bishop Garrigan senior Ashlyn Hovey wrapped up her high school basketball career as well, ending the night by moving Bishop Garrigan’s name into the state champion spot on the tournament bracket. It was a surreal moment for Hovey to end her career celebrating a state title.

For their outstanding performance throughout the state tournament, Crooks and Joyce were named to the Class 1A All-Tournament team, with Crooks taking the spot as captain of the all-tournament team. Coach Schwab says Crooks and Joyce are generational talents.

Newell-Fonda’s Kierra Jungers and Mary Walker, as well as Whitney Jensen from Remsen St. Mary’s and Kamryn Kurt from North Linn were also named to the all-tournament team.

The Golden Bears end the season at 26-1, a program record for wins, and never having lost a game on Iowa soil.

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