Lady Dees stun Savages

Albia senior Anaya Thomas celebrates a season-opening 35-31 high school girls basketball win over Sigourney on Tuesday in Albia.

ALBIA — Sophie Waber seemed surprised to learn just how good the Sigourney Savages have been in recent years.

Waber and her Albia teammates did know just how good Carly Goodwin from the perimeter, having seen the Sigourney sophomore up close one week ago at the Pekin Jamboree. Goodwin sank five shots from nearly 30 feet out in 16 minutes of a preseason scrimmage against Moravia.

"We also scrimmaged Moravia the following Friday, so we kind of knew what the competition level would be like," Waber said. "We saw that Sigourney had good 3-point shooters, so we were ready for that and ready to go with the pressure."

The same shots that seemed to splash through the hoop with ease last week at Pekin would not fall for Goodwin in the regular-season opener against the Lady Dees. The iron inside the Albia 'A' Gymnasium proved to be unkind throughout the night for the Sigourney girls basketball team, allowing Albia to earn a hard-fought 35-31 win over the Savages, marking the first season-opening win for the Monroe County school since a 47-43 win over Cardinal tipped off Albia's last winning girls basketball season four years ago.

"Sigourney has a fantastic basketball program. We've got a couple teams in our area, and I think Sigourney is one of those, that you always know you'll get the best of them," Albia head girls basketball coach Katy Dykes said. "It was fun to watch our girls battle back and forth. There wasn't a time we were out of the game. I think we got down by five points at one in the second half, but the girls pretty much matched Sigourney basket for basket.

"It was really fun to see the girls that they could compete consistently for a full game. There were no highs or lows. We want to be steady and consistent. We've had years where we've had the big highs and the big lows. It was nice to play a tough, competitive team to start and see what our team can do."

Waber and Anaya Thomas led the way in the opening game for Albia, combining for 23 points and 21 rebounds against the Savages. Thomas and Waber both converted on conventional 3-point plays in the final final minutes as Sigourney managed just two points on a lay-up by Amiya Smallwood over a six-minute stretch in the fourth, allowing Albia to open a 32-26 lead with one minute left.

"We played really good as a team," Waber said after leading Albia with a game-high 15 points. "We moved the ball around a ton. That got us a lot of open shots. We played good as a team."

While the Lady Dees made the shots down the stretch, Sigourney (0-1) struggled from the perimeter. The Savages shot just 19 percent from the field as a team (12-63), missing 33 of 38 shots for the game from beyond the 3-point arc.

"It was really bad shooting night. We probably shot too many (3-pointers), but those are the shots we're going to have to hit this year," Sigourney head girls basketball coach Zach Tremmel said. "Losing a post player like Kaylee Weber, the team is going to be a lot different. We're built from the outside in and we've got to shoot it better."

Goodwin, who showed incredible range one week earlier at Pekin, struggled in Tuesday's regular-season opener from the same spots on the court. The sharp-shooting all-conference guard missed her first seven shots from 3-point range against the Lady Dees, ultimately hitting just three of 15 field goal attempts including two of 12 shots from beyond the arc as part of an eight-point season-opening effort.

"It just wasn't my night," Goodwin said. "I had to try and find my teammates, but I couldn't let it get into my head. I got a little frustrated, but shooters shoot. I've got confidence that those shots are going to fall, but I'm definitely going to be in the gym every day throughout the holiday weekend so it hopefully goes better next week."

Despite the shooting struggles, Sigourney was able to move in front on Goodwin's second 3-point make of the third quarter, opening a 24-19 lead with 3:31 left in the period. Waber responded by scoring the final four points of the third, cutting Sigourney's lead to 24-23 heading into the fourth.

Ava Fisch led Sigourney in the season opener with 10 points, sinking a jumper with 14.7 seconds left and a 3-pointer with 3.4 seconds to go cutting Albia's lead to 34-31. Thomas, who grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds for the Lady Dees, clinched the win by sinking Albia's 10th free throw in 16 attempts in the second half.

Albia (1-0) has a busy week coming up, traveling to Burlington-Notre Dame on Monday before hosting Pella Christian on Tuesday. The Lady Dees open South Central Conference play hosting Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont on Friday, Dec. 3.

"The expectation now is that we can compete every night. That's what I've always wanted for our girls to do," Dykes said. "Whether you're up 20 points or down 20 points, you don't stop competing. The belief is there now.

"It's nice to win that first game of the season. It lifts the energy of everyone. They want to learn more and they want to improve at practice because they've experienced that success."

Sigourney opens South Iowa Cedar League play at Iowa Valley on Tuesday.

— Scott Jackson can be reached at sjackson@ottumwacourier.com. Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.

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