By Jeff Webster
Visiting Winterset survived a 23-5 deficit after one quarter of play to rally past Perry, 63-58, in a girls Class 4A Region 7 Semifinal Saturday.
The Jayettes (15-8) came out blazing and led, 19-2, after a 17-0 run. Claire Marburger was simply unstoppable, pouring in numerous baskets in the first frame to help the hosts race to a 23-5 lead after eight minutes of action.
The Huskies (14-9) fought their way back into the game with an 18-9 scoring edge in the second period to close to within 32-23 at the break.
Northern Iowa-bound senior point guard Mariah Criswell started slow but broke free in the second frame to finish with 17 first-half points, with six from Molly Eyerly the only other Winterset points.
Marburger — who will play at Valparaiso — had 20 points in the first half to spark Perry.
The third quarter proved fatal to Perry’s hopes for a third straight trip to the Regional Finals as Criswell kept scoring but began to get critical help from her teammates. Amy Pickering hit a pair of 3-pointers and Erika Shahan a trey as the guests surged to within 43-42.
Perry’s offense disappeared in the stanza as Winterset sank three players deep around the basket to try and stop Marburger. The move took away easy entry passes and clamped down on drives to the basket. A series of turnovers and missed shots added to the slowdown and set the stage for a tense fourth quarter.
Foul trouble began to plague Perry, with Grace Marburger called for her fifth foul early in the fourth. The hosts were whistled for an unofficial eight offensive fouls while Winterset was assessed just three similar infractions.
The teams traded the lead, with Criswell — who leads the state at the foul line — sinking 12-of-14 at the stripe in the second half to help keep Perry at bay.
Maggie Lowe — who will play at Wayne State College — helped stem a brief run by the Huskies with a 3-pointer but the Jayettes trailed, 56-50, with less than a minute to go when Claire Marburger scored five points in four seconds on a basket, a steal and a bucket-and-foul shot to pull Perry to within a point at 56-55.
Unfortunately for the hosts Perry could not find a player with the ball to foul other than Criswell, who continued to sink shots at the line to help ice the contest.
Criswell led all scorers with 36 points, with Eyerly adding 14.
Claire Marburger had a season-high 34 points while adding six rebounds and three assists while Lowe had 10 points, two boards and five assists. Those assists allowed Lowe to finish her career with a school record of 517 “dimes” one more than Fran Reis’ former mark.
Emma Olejniczak had four points, five rebounds and three assists, Amy Marckres four points, five boards and three assists and Grace Marburger three points and three rebounds. Three points from Taylor Lathrum capped the Perry scoring.
The loss ends the stellar careers of seniors Claire Marburger and Lowe, with Marckres and Erica Tenold also seeing their final prep action. The foursome bow out with a four-year record of 61-31 overall and 36-26 in Raccoon River Conference play.