Heartland Christian and Riverside last met Feb. 8.
In the contest, Riverside earned a 39-36 win. Prior to that victory, the Bulldogs had dropped 12 of 13 games, including 10 in a row at one point.
On Thursday, the two teams met again on the same court on the Iowa School for the Deaf campus, only this time, the stakes were higher in Class 1-A Region 8 play.
Behind a combined 45 points from Ashlynn Amdor (20) and Meghan Reed (25), Riverside earned a 55-52 victory over Heartland Christian. The win advances the Bulldogs (4-18) into the Region 8 quarterfinals. They’ll face CAM (15-6) Tuesday night at 7 p.m. in Anita.
Heartland Christian’s season ends at 11-11.
Entering the fourth quarter Thursday, Riverside faced a one-point deficit. The Bulldogs tied the game at 43-43 with four minutes remaining in the contest on a Franee Maher basket. Fifty-four seconds later, Reed buried her fifth 3-pointer of the game to give Riverside a lead it wouldn’t relinquish. Reed entered Thursday having converted on only 3 of 25 attempts from three-point range. She also grabbed 17 rebounds on the night.
“We didn’t let their relaxed zone defense kind of control what we did in the half court, so we hit big shots and got some rebounds and were running and gunning in transition,” Riverside coach Taylor Schueman said.
Although the Bulldogs led the final 3:06 of the game, the outcome was never certain. They were able to stretch the advantage to 52-47 after a pair of Reed free throws with 1:25 to go, but H.C. answered with a basket from Sarah Stile to make it a one-possession game.
Two more free throws form Reed, plus another from Amdor made it a six-point game with 13 seconds left.
Bella Dingus answered with a 3 for Heartland Christian, but only two seconds remained on the clock. The Eagles came no closer.
Dingus finished with a game-high 26 points — with 17 coming in the second half — in her final prep game. She entered Thursday as Class 1-A third-leading scorer, averaging 19.9 points per game.
But Riverside’s defensive attack did just enough to disrupt Dingus and the Eagles’ offensive rhythm.
“Our girls struggled with confidence the entire season just because we’re in such a tough conference, but this is huge,” Schueman said. “I’ve never seen the girls this pumped up, so it’s awesome.”
In addition to Dingus, Shelana Cochran is the only other senior on the H.C. roster.
“Riverside played a heck of a game,” Heartland Christian coach John Stile said. “We take the lead and they would make a good shot. You’ve got to give the girls credit there.
“But I’m proud of my girls. Up until the last two seconds, we were in it, and we had a chance.”
The coach also felt the program took a step forward this winter after the Eagles tallied only five wins all of last season.
“It was a fun season, and they took a couple steps forward,” Stile said. “Typically, we struggled last season just to get a win or two. There was a lot of excitement around the program. Folks in town were coming out and following us. We even generated some more interest in the school, and we may have some more girls out next year.”
Riverside (4-18) 14 7 11 23 — 55
Heartland Christian (11-11) 8 15 10 19 — 52
R: Ashlynn Amdor 20, Emily Brown 6, Meghan Reed 25, Macy Woods 0, Franee Maher 4, McKenna Sick 0, Stormy Noble 0.
HC: Bella Dingus 26, Savannah Horan 9, Shelana Cochran 1, Morgan Beckner 2, Sarah Stile 9, Mady Jundt 5, Suzanne Coffelt 0.