St. Albert Unseats Bishop Garrigan in State Quarterfinal Round

by Tyler Lance
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The Bishop Garrigan hopes of a three-peat as Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union Class 1A state basketball champions came to an end on Wednesday afternoon at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, as the Golden Bears could not overcome a slow start in a 53-42 loss to the St. Albert Saintes.

St. Albert grabbed an early 7-6 lead with 3:09 left in the first quarter on a free throw by sophomore Avah Underwood, and never relinquished the lead after that, dominating much of the first half on their way to a 28-16 lead at intermission.

After a make by Bishop Garrigan sophomore Zoe Montag gave the Golden Bears a 6-2 lead with 5:32 remaining in the first quarter, Bishop Garrigan would not hit another field goal until a three by sophomore Sacha Alesch at the 5:57 mark of the second, by which point the Saintes were on the tail end of an 11-0 run to take a 19-7 lead, a lead that was cut to 19-10 by the Alesch three ball.

The Saintes answered the Alesch three with a quick layup by junior Ellie Monahan, then a three by senior Ella Klusman to give St. Albert a 24-10 lead and force a Bishop Garrigan timeout.

St. Albert Head Coach Richard Wettengel’s concerns of a slow start at Wells Fargo Arena were erased by early shots falling.

The 11-0 run by St. Albert featured an and one by senior Kiera Hochstein, a three by Klusman at the very end of the first, a three to start the second quarter by senior Lily Krohn, and drive and score by Underwood in traffic. The Saintes led by as many as 15 in the first half, with a putback by Bishop Garrigan freshman Graclyn Eastman off a missed three by senior Abbie Capesius helping the Golden Bears trim the lead to 12 at the break.

Bishop Garrigan Head Coach Brandon Schwab feels that the game plan to start wasn’t as effective as originally hoped for.

Bishop Garrigan would not go quietly in the second half, scoring the first five points coming out of intermission, as a Montag three pointer got the scoring started, then a Capesius assist across the paint to Eastman got the Golden Bears to a manageable 28-21 deficit.

The Saintes did not relinquish the momentum for long however. Senior Missy Evezic put her first two points of the afternoon on the board to start the St. Albert scoring, then Monahan connected on a three on the ensuing Saintes possession to restore a 12 point lead. With four minutes left in the third, an outlet pass from Klusman found Monahan to make the St. Albert lead 35-21.

Once again, Bishop Garrigan refused to roll over, battling back with a flurry of activity to end the third quarter. Trailing 37-23 with 2:08 left in the third, Eastman and Capesius executed a textbook give and go, as Capesius’ bucket started the Golden Bear run. After a Bishop Garrigan timeout, the Golden Bears used their full court press to steal the ball, then Capesius screened and rolled to the bucket to cut the deficit to ten points. Alesch then jumped a pass in the full court press for a steal, later in the possession drawing a foul and making both free throws. St. Albert got a quick bucket off a press break in response, but Bishop Garrigan roared back as Eastman finished a layup through contact to make the score 39-31 with 44 seconds left in the third. Another forced turnover in the full court press gave Bishop Garrigan the ball back. Alesch would airball a three pointer, but Montag made a leaping save along the base line, throwing the ball to a wide open Emmi Bartolo before her feet landed on the ground, as Bartolo drilled a no-hesitation three to make the score 39-34 to end the third, the closest Bishop Garrigan had been since early in the second quarter.

Capesius knew Bishop Garrigan had been in similar spots early in the season and had shown the ability to battle back from the brink of defeat.

After St. Albert turned the ball over seven times in the first half, Bishop Garrigan’s press forced six turnovers in the third, turning the momentum of the game with a 12-2 scoring run to end the third. Coach Schwab felt Bishop Garrigan’s run gave themselves a chance.

The momentum did not carry over to the fourth. The Golden Bears reverted to their first half shooting form, making just 2/15 shots in the fourth quarter, including 1/9 threes. St. Albert also took care of the basketball, going the entire fourth quarter without a turnover.

Coach Wettengel felt his team’s toughness allowed them to weather the storm Bishop Garrigan presented in the third.

A Bishop Garrigan team that won many games with great three point shooting on its path to their fifth straight state tournament appearance never got the perimeter shooting on track, finishing 5/27 from behind the arc, and just 15/55 from the field total, shooting at just over a 27% clip.

Coach Wettengel credited his team’s experience for their perimeter defense.

In her final game wearing a Bishop Garrigan basketball uniform, Top of Iowa West Conference Player of the Year Abbie Capesius finished with 9 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, and 6 steals, her 16th game of the season with 10 or more boards.

Schwab says the impact Capesius left on the program will be felt forever.

Capesius hopes she showed the next generation the work it takes to be successful.

Eastman recorded her 13th double double of the season with 10 points and 13 rebounds, and says she is hungry to return to Wells Fargo Arena next season.

Montag scored 12 points to pace the Golden Bears, while Alesch added 8, and Bartolo scored 3.

Underwood led the Saintes in points, rebounds, and assists, finishing with 13, 11, and 5 respectively. Krohn scored 12, and Monahan added 8. St. Albert also finished with a 38-28 advantage on the glass, and a 30-18 edge in points in the paint.

Capesius feels St. Albert’s length caused several issues for Bishop Garrigan.

Even though the Golden Bears did not reach their ultimate goal, Capesius believes the team answered the doubters.

St. Albert has their 22nd consecutive win, and enters their state semifinal matchup against top-seeded North Linn on Friday with a record of 23-1, while Bishop Garrigan ends the season at 23-3. The victory marks the first state tournament win for the Saintes since 2000, as St. Albert continues their quest for the first girls basketball state title in program history on Friday at 1:30 from Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.

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