Indians upset No. 3 Gael girls

When it came down to winning time, the Pocahontas Area girls basketball team rose to the occasion here Thursday.

Macey Bales’ layup with just over eight seconds left helped the Indians (16-3 overall) to a stunning 79-77 upset over third-ranked (Class 2A) St. Edmond on Senior Night at the SEHS gym.

The Gaels actually had one last chance to snatch a victory from the jaws of defeat, however, Jaci Stumpf’s open triple from the top of the key was off the mark as the final buzzer sounded, setting off a wild Pocahontas Area celebration.

“It was a tournament-like atmosphere with a great crowd,” PAC head coach Robert Maske said. “Our whole goal is to keep getting better and to start clicking at the right time before heading into tournaments. This was just one more step along the way.”

Elle Ruffridge, a freshman, poured in a career-high 40 points on 12 of 17 shooting for Pocahontas Area. The diminutive 5-foot-3 point guard also went 10-for-11 at the free throw line, including 8 of 9 in the fourth quarter alone. Ruffridge entered the game seventh among all 2A players in total points (366). Her previous best offensive performance was a 30-point outburst in a 61-38 home triumph against Sioux Central back on Dec. 20.

“I thought Elle really did a great job of penetrating and finding her open teammates,” said Maske. “Our gameplan coming in was to try and dictate the tempo and control the pace. Even though we gave up 77 (points), I thought our defensive effort was excellent. My hat’s off to St. Edmond for fighting back.”

Bales and senior classmate Hannah Stafford each contributed 13 points for the Indians, who pushed their winning streak to six straight games. Bales also grabbed nine rebounds.

As a team, Pocahontas Area shot an even 50 percent from the field. The Indians went 13 of 28 behind the arc, while going 14-for-17 at the charity stripe.

“That’s an awfully good team, but we knew that going in after they just beat (top-ranked and defending 1A state runner-up) Newell-Fonda (in a 70-53 decision on Saturday),” St. Edmond head coach Scott Messerly said of Pocahontas Area. “We hung in there until the end, but we just couldn’t make enough plays late. I still think a game like this can help us later on down the road.”

Junior all-stater Anna Young netted a career-high 33 points for the Gaels (18-2 overall), who saw their eight game winning streak snapped. Senior Alli Huss also tallied 25 points for SEHS, while the junior Stumpf added 13. St. Edmond finished 10-21 from downtown.

With the loss, the Gaels fell to 49-6 on their home court since the start of the 2009-10 campaign.

“I thought our big three (Yung, Huss and Stumpf) all played well again (Thursday),” said Messerly. “Megan (Flattery) and Brigid (Hanley) both gave us some solid minutes off the bench, too. We didn’t go as deep as wanted to, though, because of (Pocahontas Area’s) quickness.”

After building a 15-11 advantage entering the second quarter, the Indians never trailed the rest of the way. Stafford’s three-pointer at the 5:29 mark of the fourth extended Pocahontas Area’s lead to 14, but the Gaels responded with a 22-8 run to deadlock the contest on a late Stumpf basket. Ruffridge then drove the length of the court before dishing off to Bales underneath for the decisive points.

“Ruffridge is so savvy with the basketball in her hands,” Messerly said. “I think Jaci is one of the best defenders in the (North Central Conference), but even she had her work cut out trying to slow her down.”

With a chance to clinch their third straight NCC title, the Gaels (16-1 in the league) wrap up their regular season tonight at Iowa Falls-Alden (3-14, 3-11). Pocahontas Area also returns to action this evening at Prairie Valley (2-14).