WINFIELD — The team that couldn’t lose finally did on Saturday night. An 18-0 Winfield-Mt. Union team couldn’t withstand a barrage of second-half 3-pointers from a stacked Notre Dame squad, and the Wolves reached a bitter end to one of the sweetest seasons in recent memory. The Nikes knocked the Wolves out, 61-33, to advance to the Class 1A Region 5 final.
WMU had to battle back from a 16-5 deficit at the end of the first period. The Wolves trailed by just nine, 30-21, at half. Notre Dame, however, came out of the locker rooms and drilled five 3-pointers in the third quarter to bust the contest open.
“That was too much for us to recover from,” said Wolves’ head coach Mitch Wachs. “They delivered the knockout blow.”
The Nikes held a 53-29 lead after three quarters, and held WMU to just four points in the fourth.
This was the second-straight year the Nikes ended the Wolves’ postseason run, but for Coach Wachs and the Wolves, it hurt a lot more the second time around. Not only did WMU have to say goodbye to a senior class of seven, but they did so against a perennial girls basketball power that added to its already stellar lineup with the additional boost of former Illinois preps who anchored the Nikes’ huge second-half run.
“It’s frustrating,” said Wachs. “Last year we got spanked by them down in Burlington, and three big seniors moved on from their program, but they just have new ones come in.”
A pair of WMU seniors, Jami Wilkerson and Farrah Nelson, coled the team with eight points in the loss. Nelson pulled down seven rebounds. Another senior, Jenna Buffington, scored six points on a pair of 3-pointers in the first half.
Melina Oepping scored five points for the Wolves. Jobey Malone had three. Keetyn Townsley finished with two, and Kyndal Townsley scored one.
Despite Saturday’s loss, the Wolves finished with six more wins, and 10 fewer losses, than last year’s 11-12 campaign. The Wolves’ Southeast Iowa Super Conference North Division title was the first championship for WMU girls basketball since before anyone in the current lineup was born.
“They’ve been coming to camp since they were in fourth grade,” Wachs said. “To go 18-0, there’s a great deal of satisfaction in that.”
Notre Dame will move on to a regional finals match up against Springville on Wednesday night. That game will be played at Muscatine High School.