BELLEVUE, Iowa — Kelsey Drake needed one point to reach the 1,000 career plateau and wasted little time getting that milestone, making a layup to open the scoring.
“I’m very proud of myself and my teammates for helping me,” the junior said. “That was my whole goal this season.”
That was about the only bright spot for Wilton Friday night.
Class 2A No. 6 Bellevue was red hot from downtown in the first half, locked in on defense in the second half and was able to empty the bench in its 56-41 regional semifinal thrashing of the Beavers at Bellevue Middle/High School.
“They got off to a good start on us and it kind of snowballed from there, we couldn’t get over the hump,” Wilton coach Jake Souhrada said. “I’m proud of how we competed. Wasn’t meant to be for us.”
The Comets will face No. 5 North Linn, a 70-56 winner over Waterloo Columbus Catholic, on Wednesday at either West Delaware or Cascade for the right to go to the state tournament inside Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
“We’ve grown in such a short period of time, we want to be the aggressor,” Bellevue coach Rick Reeg said. “We’re looking forward to that challenge. We have a little chip on our shoulder.”
The first meeting between the two River Valley Conference foes was a tight contest until the fourth quarter, where Bellevue flexed its muscles to pull away and win by double digits.
It didn’t need to wait until the final eight minutes to show how dominant it has been since the first game of the season.
Thirty of the Comets’ 32 first half points were scored by the three-headed monster of Teresa Paulsen, Audrey Wedeking and Julia Penniston. That trifecta is part of six different players who have scored over 100 points this year.
“I knew what we had; I knew the potential we had, but other teams maybe didn’t,” Reeg said. “It’s not a surprise to me. They can’t double everybody.”
Wedeking buried the Beavers (12-11) with three made 3s in a 21-9 first quarter advantage for Bellevue; Paulsen had 11 of her game-high 16 points in the first half while Penniston went 4-of-5 from the field for 10 points in the first 16 minutes.
It was a case of pick your poison defensively for Wilton, who trailed 32-15 at the half.
“Our main plan was to stay inside,” Drake said. “We should’ve recognized that shooter sooner.”
The Beavers cut it to nine in the second quarter. They used a 6-0 run in the fourth to trim the deficit to 12 on the strength of Ella Caffrey scoring 11 of her team-high 13 points. That was the closest they got the remainder of the night.
Bellevue, despite 14 second half turnovers and shooting 6-of-19 from the field, answered with an 8-0 spurt to bring the lead back to 20. It forced at least four Wilton turnovers every quarter.
“I told them at halftime ‘There’s going to be a run by the other team, just stay focused,’” Reeg said.
Paulsen and company, in a 1-3-1 zone, made it difficult all night for Drake. The latter was held to nine points in the battle between the two unanimous RVC elite team selections.
“I need to recognize that sooner and (take) more jump shots instead of driving,” Drake said. “We weren’t fouled so it was hard to get around.”
Wilton brings back four starters, including Drake, next winter. A hopeful summer of open gyms plus one area of work is what it is banking on for a return trip to this point.
“We’re going to work a lot on shooting and that’s the key for us,” Souhrada said. “Hopefully, we’ll continue to get better in the offseason with our shooting and ball-handling and that’ll turn into more wins next season.”