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DUBUQUE, Iowa — As coach Rick Reeg put it, the seniors on the Bellevue girls basketball team have been through "hell and back" in the past year.

Emma Kelchen lost her father in an automobile accident in September. She tore the ACL in her left knee last month. Camryn Reeg finished her cross country season last fall with a fractured foot. 

Even with the adversity, Bellevue was on the verge of its first state tournament trip in six years Monday night. Rival Cascade wouldn't allow it.

Sixth-ranked Cascade limited Bellevue to just one fourth-quarter field goal, compiling a 50-41 regional final victory inside James Nora Gymnasium at Dubuque Senior High School.

"We got a little anxious," Reeg said. "Turnovers cost us. We didn't get a lot of good looks at the basket. They got quick on us and had good rotations, and they did a good job of taking away our drive."

For three quarters, No. 12 Bellevue (19-6) was step-for-step with Cascade. Giana Michels hit a jumper in the lane to knot the score at 38. 

The Cougars owned the fourth quarter. They forced the Comets into seven turnovers and didn't even allow a shot attempt the first four minutes of the fourth. 

"We finally executed what we needed to do and forced them outside to contested shots," said Cascade coach Mike Sconsa, whose program is headed to the state tournament for the fifth time in six seasons. "We limited the penetration pretty well and got stops when we needed."

When Bellevue got looks at the basket, it couldn't convert against Cascade's 2-3 zone defense.

The Comets were 2 of 15 from beyond the arc.

"We knew that was a must," Reeg said. "It was going to have to be a well-rounded game. Our key is go inside, drive and kick. You've got to make shots to win. 

"It just wasn't our night."

Anne Ryan led Cascade with 14 points and sophomore guard Nicole McDermott had 13. McDermott also pulled down six rebounds, had several steals and buried free throws late.

"She's a player," Sconsa said. "She makes a lot of things happen for us. I like the ball in her hands. She has the best basketball IQ I've ever coached."

Bellevue, which split with Cascade during the regular season, had its moments. Kelchen, who hadn't played in the postseason run because of the ACL, came off the bench to score five points.

Her 3-pointer right before half, which capped a 15-4 flurry, gave Bellevue a one-point lead at intermission.

Kelchen has wanted to play, but Reeg didn't decide to bring her in until less than 3 minutes left in the second quarter.

"We had some heart-to-heart discussions," Reeg said. "I didn't encourage it. I told her I'd go with my heart and I'll know when it happens."

Sophomore Lindsey Banowetz led Bellevue with 15 points. Rebecca Schroeder, also a senior, hauled in a team-high eight rebounds.

As Cascade celebrated afterward, Bellevue players exchanged hugs and tears with family and friends.

"I love these kids to death," Reeg said. "These kids have been through a lot. I told them it is about more than basketball in the grand scheme. 

"They were forced to grow up pretty quick."

Cascade 50, Bellevue 41

BELLEVUE (19-6) -- Kailey Miller 2-2 0-0 4, Lindsey Banowetz 7-9 1-2 15, Camryn Reeg 1-9 0-0 2, Rebecca Schroeder 0-2 3-4 3, Giana Michels 3-12 1-2 8, Teresa Paulsen 2-2 0-0 4, Alyssa Rubel 0-1 0-0 0, Emma Kelchen 2-4 0-2 5. Totals 17-41 5-10 41. 

CASCADE (22-3) -- Nicole McDermott 4-8 5-6 13, Anne Ryan 6-9 0-0 14, Jordan Simon 3-6 0-1 6, Rachel Trumm 3-6 2-5 8, Abbie Ruggeberg 3-12 1-2 9, Skylar Dolphin 0-1 0-0 0, Abgail Welter 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-42 8-14 50. 



3-point goals -- Bellevue 2-15 (Kelchen 1-2, Michels 1-5, Reeg 0-7, Rubel 0-1); Cascade 4-15 (Ryan 2-5, Ruggeberg 2-6, McDermott 0-2, Simon 0-1, Dolphin 0-1). Rebounds -- Bellevue 26 (Schroeder 8); Cascade 24 (Trumm 8, McDermott 6). Turnovers -- Bellevue 15, Cascade 10. Total fouls -- Bellevue 14, Cascade 10. Fouled out -- none. 


Sports Editor

Prep sports editor, with emphasis on covering the Mississippi Athletic Conference and Iowa area high schools. I've been in sports journalism for 17 years, the last five at the Quad-City Times.