Ames moved to 2-0 on the season with a comeback win over Des Moines Roosevelt
Seeing and believing were two different things for Ames girls’ basketball coach Joel Sullivan on Tuesday night.
About five minutes had passed since the Little Cyclones’ game against Des Moines Roosevelt ended, but Sullivan still couldn’t gather the right words to describe what he just saw at the Ames High gymnasium.
“I still don’t know how we did it,” Sullivan said with a laugh.
Behind a 22-point performance from senior Ryan Weiss, Ames overcame a 14-point third-quarter deficit to beat the Roughriders, 52-51.
Junior guard Kelly Friedrich made a corner 3-pointer with less than a minute left in the game to give Ames its first lead in nearly three quarters and, eventually, the victory.
“In the first half, things were definitely not going our way and I didn’t really know how we would handle it,” said Weiss, who will play next year for the South Dakota School of Mines. “Especially in the fourth, I thought we really came together as a team and fought back.
“We never gave up, and I think that shows a lot about our team.”
Things started off well for Ames on Tuesday. The Little Cyclones took a 10-6 lead late into the first quarter. But then Roosevelt — led by senior Lauren Provost and sophomore Sanaa Smith, who combined for 26 points on the night — took control of the game. The Roughriders went on a 24-10 run to end the first half, taking a 30-20 lead into halftime.
The Little Cyclones had a slow start to the second half, as well, but then Adriana Alvarez got Ames on the right track in improbable fashion.
During halftime, one of the main things Sullivan told his team was to make the extra pass and really try to incorporate all-five players on the offensive end. He wanted them to play team basketball.
After Alvarez made a tough driving layup to cut the Roosevelt lead to 34-22, she got the ball on the next possession and did exactly the opposite of what her coach preached at halftime: she stepped back across the 3-point line, with a hand in her face, and took a shot.
“When (Alvarez) shot that three, I hung my head thinking, ‘Uh oh, there we go.’” Sullivan said. “I felt like we were just forcing threes in the first half, and we talked at halftime about making the extra pass. And then it went in and it was like ‘Oh, here we go.’ I think that was obviously a huge play.’”
Alvarez’s 3-pointer made the score 34-25, sparking the Ames’ offense in the process.
“She came in really clutch,” Weiss said. “That was really important for her to step up at a key time in the game.”
Still, there was work to do for the Little Cyclones. They had to find a way to overcome a nine-point deficit, against a hot-shooting team, with about a quarter-and-a-half left in the game.
So, as Weiss said after the game, Ames started chipping away. The Little Cyclones went to a full-court press, produced a couple of turnovers and forced a couple of stops before turning around and making enough baskets to crawl its way back within the lead. The Roughriders entered the fourth clinging to a 36-34 lead.
The fourth quarter went back-and-forth between the two teams. But whenever Ames needed a bucket, they turned toward Weiss. The senior hit four three-pointers in the second half, helping Ames chip away at the Roosevelt lead.
“I had a feeling the whole time we were going to get back in it,” Weiss said. “I knew we had to do whatever it took to come back. In the fourth quarter it was getting — not much time was left so my teammates kept finding me, and I was open.”
Sullivan added: “She was making shots when we had to have someone making shots. She decided to make some shots. Not that she wasn’t in the first half, but I think she was determined to make some plays in the second half.”
Ames overcame the nearly game-long deficit once the fourth quarter clock changed from minutes to seconds. Friedrich, who had 16 points on the night, hit a corner 3-pointer with 59 seconds left, sending the Ames’ student section into a frenzy and giving the Little Cyclones a 48-47 lead it would never give back to Roosevelt.
Overcoming a 15-point deficit in game No. 2 is great for Ames, according to Sullivan. It was a highly competitive game and his team was able to come out on the right side of the scoreboard.
“I hope they understand this is how it’s going to be in the (conference) every single night,” Sullivan said. “They have to bring their a game from start to finish and hopefully we’ll be able to realize if we just stay with our game plan, we’ll give ourselves a chance at the end.”