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Comets end two-season drought with 55-20 win over Mustangs

Comets end two-season drought with 55-20 win over Mustangs
Press photo by John Burbridge
Charles City junior Dani Stock battles with a group of Mustangs while fighting for an offensive rebound. Stock had 14 points in the Comets’ 55-20 win over Independence.

By John Burbridge

CHARLES CITY — The Charles City Comets girls basketball team is off to a better start this season.

In fact, it’s off to a better start than the last several seasons.

While putting an end to a winless drought that has spanned for more than two years, the Comets were convincing 55-20 victors over Independence in their home-opener at Comet Gym on Monday,

“It’s nice to have this feeling again,” said Comet head coach Danielle Rippentrop, who helped Charles City get to the state finals as a player during the program’s heyday.

While breaking the spell, the Comets pretty much put on a basketball clinic as they pulled further away from the Mustangs as the game progressed.

In addition to playing a smothering, trapping defense that limited Independence to 10 points in the final three quarters — including pitching a shutout in the fourth — the Comets dominated the boards, especially on the offensive side … got to most every loose ball … repeatedly broke presses … spaced the floor on offense … continually made the extra pass while finding open shooters and cutters … pushed the ball aggressively upcourt and finished breaks … displayed good court vision … AND DIDN’T TAKE A BAD SHOT ALL GAME.

“Our basketball IQ has gotten much better,” Rippentrop said of her team that has a good mix of seniors and underclassmen with promise of even better days in the future. “The girls have gotten to know each other from playing together, and they’ve really worked hard to make themselves better.”

Among the players who have noticeably picked up their games are junior Dani Stock, who scored 10 of her 14 points in the first half, and senior Lauren Connell, who in addition to scoring 6 points was a beast on the boards reaching double-figures on the offensive side alone.

Sophomore Lydia Staudt led all scorers for the Comets with 15 points as her series of steals and layups helped the Comets double-up the Mustangs (41-20) early in the fourth quarter.

Senior Mackenzy Bilharz had 8 points including a pair of 3-pointers; senior Liz Fiser scored 6 points and was catalyst in the Comets’ stifling defense; senior Lynn Hoeft scored 4 and helped lead numerous breaks up the floor; and junior Sadie Gebel scored 2 late in the game after tallying 5 points in the previous junior varsity game.

Comet sophomore Rachel Chambers didn’t get into the scoring column, but her deft unselfish passing put her in double-figures with assists.

“This team is not about ME … it’s about WE,” Rippentrop said. “We’re willing to make that extra pass to get the best shot.”

This was best exemplified during an offensive series late in the third quarter that basically put the game away.

After extending a possession with three offensive rebounds, the Comets kicked the ball out on the perimeter where Chambers found a wide-open Bilharz with a skip pass before Bilharz drained her second 3-pointer to put Charles City up 35-18.

Independence was led by Lainie Butters, who scored 7 points, and Mary Puffett and Anna Ruffcorn, who each scored 5.

The Mustangs had a 10-9 after the first quarter, but suffered a major blow when Puffett — the team’s returning leading scorer — went down with a knee injury midway through the second quarter and didn’t come back.

The Comets (1-1) will close the week on the road against Aplington-Parkersburg on Thursday and Algona on Saturday.

“We have a real tough schedule this season,” Rippentrop said. “We’ve got 10 ranked teams.”

* Independence won the junior varsity game 34-25. Freshman Ava Ellis scored 6 points to lead the Comets.

Scoring By Quarters

IND 10 4 6 0 — 20
CC 9 13 15 18 — 55
INDEPENDENCE — Lainie Butters 7, Anna Ruffcorn 5, Mary Puffett 5, Sophie Wolf 1, Jadyn Schultz 2
CHARLES CITY — Lynn Hoeft 4, Dani Stock 14, Lydia Staudt 15, Liz Fiser 6, Mackenzy Bilharz 8, Lauren Connell 6, Sadie Gebel 2.