I was so hoping the third time would be the charm for the Anamosa girls basketball program Saturday, Feb. 17.

      When the Raiders defeated Mount Vernon Wednesday, Feb. 14, the Anamosa girls advanced to a regional championship game for the third time in the last 14 years, but once again the Raiders faced an incredibly talented foe, this time in Oelwein.

      Back in 2004-05, the Raiders were a mere game away from a first-ever state tournament berth in coach Jack Leighty’s first season with the program, reaching the regional final against Davenport Assumption.

      There was a lot of excitement that the senior-laden Anamosa team, led by Lucie Lueken, Audra Ketelsen, Kelly Lerch and Saira Morgan could do what no other Raider team before them had accomplished.

      There was good reason, too.

      Anamosa had a school-record 22-2 mark coming into the game and had rolled through the Tri-Rivers Conference winning the league title with a perfect 16-0 record.

      But while the Raiders made several runs during their contest with the Knights that night at Cedar Rapids Xavier, a memorable season came to an end with a 66-42 defeat.

      Five years later Leighty had his team knocking in the state door again, this time facing Marion in the regional championship game in 2010, defeating Independence and Union-LaPorte City to get there.

      Kayla Sanborn, Kellie Vaughn, Lauren Buck, Tristan Camp, Nicole Sanborn and Mackenzie Ginn were the names then, and again the Raiders fought, but were handed a 52-40 defeat against the Indians at Cedar Rapids Washington, closing a 16-8 campaign.

      Having been at the previous two championship contests, I can say without a doubt, the Crestwood team the Anamosa girls played last Saturday night was the best of the regional final bunch.

      And believe me, that’s saying something.

      History has shown in each of Anamosa’s three regional final trips, their draws were extremely difficult. Each and every time however, the Raiders never backed down from the challenge.

      I was proud of the way the Anamosa girls kept fighting in Oelwein, even when the scoreboard told them to give it up.

      They wouldn’t listen.

      That’s just not the way this team is wired. Which is also why they’re one of the most successful teams in school history, finishing the 2017-18 campaign with a 19-5 overall record (third-best ever).

      Raider fans remember those amazing ‘05 and ‘10 teams fondly. They’re still talked about today. There’s no doubt this ‘18 bunch will go down in history as well.

      Thanks Anamosa girls for an incredible run of success and giving us a season we’ll never forget.

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