It was just their second game of the 2021-22 campaign, but the Anamosa girls’ 72-15 loss at Cascade back on Nov. 30, was a setback that stung the team deeply as they were still learning how to play without star junior Joslin Banowetz who was lost in the season-opener to a devastating knee injury.

Needless to say, the Raiders have shown signs of improved play during the course of the last month and a half, and when they played the Cougars yet again, this time in Anamosa Thursday, Jan. 13, Cascade fans were in shock with what transpired in the game’s opening quarter of play.

I think even a few Raider fans may have been, too.

“We started the game going down 6-0 right away, and I think there might have been a ‘here we go again’ feeling from the team,” said Anamosa girls basketball assistant coach Wayne Hora, who took over the reins of the program for head coach Angie Rieniets, who was out with an illness.

“I have to admit, that might have slipped into my head, too with the way Cascade handled us the last time we played them. But that was a long time ago and these girls have come a long way since then and have really grown. We had to get them mentally strong and battle for the day and forget the past. And at the start of the game, even after the 6-0 start by Cascade, I thought they all did exactly that.”

The game against the Cougars back on Nov. 30, got out of hand quickly, but this time it was Anamosa (0-14, 0-7) who had an answer.

“I started our five seniors and told them to just go out there and battle, and they really did a great job of quickly getting us right back into the game,” Hora said. “We have been struggling to put the basketball through the hoop all season long, but for a stretch there in the first quarter we were really able to do some good things and make a nice run of our own.”

Kala Dietiker and Cecilia Venenga answered the Cougars’ 6-0 run by each drilling a 3-pointer while Savanna Venenga also added a hoop and just like that, Anamosa went on an 8-0 run of their own to take an 8-6 lead into the final minute of the opening frame.

Unfortunately for Raider fans, Cascade also had an answer, and ended the first quarter going on a 10-0 run to take a 16-8 lead into the second stanza.

From there, scoring would come at a much bigger premium for the hosts as the Cougars’ 10-6 second quarter spurt had the visitors leading 26-14 at the half.

“I told the girls they had played a great first half until the final two minutes of the second quarter, and were right there still in the game,” Hora said. “The kids’ confidence was still there even while it was Cascade who ended the half on a run, we just needed to do a better job of rebounding and trying to limit them to one shot and done.

“In the end that proved to be easier said than done.”

The Cougars upped their defensive pressure and forced Anamosa into numerous third quarter turnovers, as well as continuing to dominate the offensive boards keying a game-changing 24-5 spurt that had Cascade in command leading 50-19 with just one quarter to be played.

“Cascade is a good team, and they turned up the pressure and really attacked the boards all game long, especially in the third quarter,” said Hora, as the Cougars, who had just dropped out of the class 2A state-rankings the previous week, closed the game on a 14-3 run.

“We knew playing Cascade was going to be a tough challenge, but we are still trying to find that ‘w’ for the girls, and we will find it,” Hora said. “We’re trying to prepare them the best we can for what they’re going to face each and every night, and for a while there in the first quarter against a very good team, we showed we can play at a different level. It is possible. We just have to try and maintain that level for a little longer, and then just keep building from that.

“But we are showing some signs, there’s no doubt about that. We have some girls who can play, we just need a healthy dose of confidence and take every minute that we can to learn out there on the court.”

Cecilia Venenga, who scored eight first half points for the Raiders, led the team with 11 overall in the contest while Dietiker added eight more.

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