Ballard basketball coach Kelly Anderson would watch as fans would hold their breath and their eyes would widen when they learned the Bombers would be taking on the three-time champions.
No one seemed to think his team stood a chance.
Seventh-ranked Ballard ended a string of three consecutive state championships for second-ranked Davenport Assumption with a 55-45 victory in a Class 4-A quarterfinal of the state girls’ basketball tournament at Wells Fargo Arena Wednesday.
“Everybody knew that they had won three in a row,” Anderson said. “So, they’re going, ‘Oh goodness, too bad for you.’ “
The joke is on them.
The Bombers handed Assumption just its seventh loss of the season and first state tournament defeat since falling to Ballard in the Class 3-A quarterfinals in 2010.
Since that loss, the Knights had rattled off the last three Class 3-A titles, before making the jump to 4-A this season.
In 2011, Assumption rolled over Ballard with a dominating 56-42 win in the semifinals.
It’s that loss that was stuck in the head of many Ballard fans when they saw the state tournament pairings included a matchup with Assumption.
“People were kind of like, ‘Oh, you’re playing Davenport Assumption — good luck with that,’ ” Ballard forward Emily Knittel said.
The Bombers weren’t in awe of Assumption’s success, matching the Knights punch for punch in a game that featured eight different ties and six lead changes.
Assumption, which outscored Ballard 16-6 in the second quarter, even went into the half with a 27-22 lead.
But, Ballard regrouped and refocused.
“We talk about being mentally tough all the time,” Anderson said. “And they were more mentally tough then we were in the first half.”
That quickly changed as Ballard’s defense held Assumption to just three field goals and outscored the Knights 20-8 in the third quarter.
Ballard freshman guard Jenna Moody made a pair of free throws with 1:31 left in the third quarter to give the Bombers a 34-33 lead they would never relinquish.
“You’ve got to give them credit,” Assumption coach Rachael Milliman said. “They knocked down some huge shots, and for some reason we had a lid on the hoop.”
Knittel scored Ballard’s first eight points and finished with a game-high 21 points.
“I was ready to play,” Knittel said.
Ballard forward Meredith Ossian added 19 points off the bench, finishing 4-for-5 from 3-point range.
The victory marked the ninth straight opening-round win for Ballard.
“You’ve got to give them credit for what they did in the second half,” Milliman said.
Belle Thrapp and Makinze Roman both led Assumption with eight points.
The loss marked the end of a season for the Knights, who dedicated it to the memory of sophomore team assistant coach Dave Hansen. Hansen passed away suddenly in December.
“It was kind of a roller-coaster (ride) for these kids, but you’ve got to give them so much credit, they persevered through so much of it,” Milliman said.
The ride may just be starting for Ballard after delivering one of the biggest upsets of the tournament.
“It’s kind of fun to come down and show that we can and prove that we can,” Anderson said of beating the champs.
BALLARD (HUXLEY) (55)–Doud 2-4 2-2 6, McGee 0-0 0-0 0, Knittel 7-13 7-9 21, Ihle 0-1 0-0 0, Dubberke 0-1 0-0 0, Petersen 0-0 0-0 0, Moody 3-3 2-3 9, Ossian 6-7 3-4 19, Larson 0-1 0-0 0, Gealow 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-30 14-18.
DAVENPORT ASSUMPTION (45)–Behan 2-9 0-0 6, Sikkema 2-7 0-0 4 Thrapp 2-7 4-4 8, Irmen 3-11 0-0 7, White 1-6 2-2 4, Rohlf 2-6 0-0 6, Harris 0-1 0-0 0, King 0-3 0-0 0, Matson 1-5 0-0 2, Roman 4-6 0-0 8. Totals 17-61 6-6.
Ballard (Huxley)…16 6 20 13–55
Davenport Assumption…11 16 8 10–45
3-point goals–Ballard 5-9 (Ossian 4-5, Moody 1-1, Doud 0-1, Ihle 0-1, Larson 0-1), Davenport Assumption 5-24 (Behan 2-5, Rohlf 2-5, Irmen 1-4, Sikkema 0-3, Thrapp 0-3, Harris 0-1, King 0-3). Rebounds–Ballard 29 (Doud 8), Davenport Assumption 29 (Sikkema 9). Assists–Ballard 10 (Doud 3), Davenport Assumption 9 (Behan 2). Fouls–Ballard 10, Davenport Assumption 18.