Washington Evening Journal
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Twice as nice! WMU bounces Notre Dame
Lady Wolves taste revenge, boys fly in postseason basketball doubleheader
WINFIELD — Winfield-Mount Union partied like it was 1990-something on Friday night, and a standing-room-only crowd had every reason to.
In what would be the final home date of the season, the Wolves scored not one, but two postseason wins over Southeast Iowa Super Conference rival Notre Dame in one of the most significant nights of basketball since the glory days of WMU hoops.
The eighth-ranked Lady Wolves started things off with a 57-54 win *in the Class 1A Region 8 semifinals. The boys followed with a resounding 63-49 victory in the Class 1A Substate 4 quarterfinal.
For the girls, it was a long time coming. The win came on the back end of a four-year stretch of playing Notre Dame in the regional tournament. The Nikes had knocked off the Wolves in each of the past three years.
“They've beaten us in volleyball and basketball every year of our high school careers,” said senior guard Keetyn Townsley. “Finally just to beat them once, it felt really good.”
The crowd was on its feet early, as the Lady Wolves scored the first seven points of the ballgame, but Notre Dame would respond, and the Nikes were right on the Wolves’ tails all game long.
WMU led the game 16-11 after one quarter, and closed out the second period strong as Anna Anderson launched a deep buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give the Wolves a 30-21 lead and send the home crowd into a frenzy.
“I knew there wasn't very much time left, and I just had to shoot it,” Anderson said. “I didn't even really know where I was on the floor. I shot it and it went in. It was nuts.”
The Wolves had as much as a 10 point lead in the third quarter, but Notre Dame cut it to 40-35 after three quarters, and the Nikes continued to be a thorn in the Wolves’ side in the fourth.
With 2:10 remaining in the game, Notre Dame’s Lauren Krieger hit a 3-pointer that had the Wolves’ lead down to two, at 51-49. On the next WMU possession, however, Bradie Buffington hit a step-through layup brought the lead back to four.
Notre Dame had its chances in the final minute, but a couple of clutch free throws by Melina Oepping and another by Anderson kept the Nikes from ever having the ball with a chance to tie it.
Notre Dame cut the lead back down to three points with four seconds left, but the Nikes failed to foul Keely Malone in the final ticks, and WMU was finally able to celebrate.
“I started crying,” said Oepping. “Everything was blurry. All my teammates were around. It was just special.”
Oepping ended the night with 16 points. Townsley and Buffington had 13 each. Anderson scored eight, and Malone finished with five.
“I'm just so proud of the girls that they finally accomplished this,” said WMU girls coach Mendy McCreight. “They deserved it. I couldn't be more proud of them.”
Game 2 was a rematch of a one-point WMU win at the SEISC boys’ shootout, but the Wolves weren’t about to let the Nikes get that close again.
After a rocky first quarter, WMU turned a 14-8 deficit into a 23-22 lead at half, and from that point forward, it was all Wolves.
“I think we just locked in defensively,” said WMU boys coach Klay Edwards. “They didn't quite shoot it as well as they did down at SCC, so that was a difference.”
In the third, the game turned into the Cam Buffington show. The Wolves’ junior, took over the game, scoring 18 points in the period to help the Wolves grab a 44-36 lead going into the fourth.
“Sitting in that student section (during the girls’ game) gave me goose bumps,” said Buffington. “It made me ready to play in this game, in front of this crowd. I love big energy games.”
Notre Dame was in position to creep closer as both Buffington and Abram Edwards picked up their fourth fouls in the first minute of the fourth, but a Jake Edwards 3-pointer midway through the fourth served as a knockout blow, and Notre Dame could never regain its footing.
“I loved it,” Jake Edwards said. “We always feed off the crowd's momentum, so when they're going crazy, it gets us hyped.”
Buffington ended the game with 27 points and 10 rebounds. Jake Edwards scored 11 points. Ebram Edwards had eight points and 11 rebounds. Carter Loyd finished with seven points and five assists. Andrew Brown had five points. Caleb Giese scored three, and Cooper Buffington had two.
The WMU boys (19-4) will next face New London in Tuesday night’s Substate semifinal game at Mediapolis. The girls will play in the Class 1A Region 8 final at Williamsburg against No. 13 North Mahaska on Wednesday.