DES MOINES — Back in December, the Bishop Garrigan girls stepped foot inside Wells Fargo Arena for a regular season contest with Eagle Grove.
Wednesday afternoon, the Golden Bears return in the first quarterfinal of the Class 1A state tournament against Springville. Tip is set for 1:30 p.m.
After defeating the Eagles here, all the players of the Bishop Garrigan (17-7 overall) team left notes inside a locker room tile stating what they needed to accomplish over the next two-plus months to reach state for the first time since 2000.
“We decided it would be another motivation to work towards going back (to Wells Fargo Arena) to pick up our letter,” BGHS senior Jenna Boelter said. “We all wrote something that we needed to do in order to find ourselves back, then hid it and started working for the day we could get it back.”
The improbable dream became a reality with a stunning upset of No. 5 and defending state semifinalist Kingley-Pierson in the regional final, as Boelter sent the game into overtime with a three-pointer.
Boelter, who scored 34 points in that win, already has her name atop several school records. She surpassed Ashley Arndorfer, becoming the program leader with 1,510 points.
She is also the leader in career three-pointers and steals, and is averaging 20 points per game.
“Our senior grade has been traveling to tournaments together since fourth grade and our ultimate goal was to be able to go to state together,” Boelter said. “We always talked about it growing up and finally being the first team in the last 18 years to make it feels great.”
The Golden Bears are far from a one-player team, though, as freshman Kaylyn Meyers averages 11.5 points, with seniors Whitney Hovey and Grace McGuire chipping in seven each.
Alisa Altman, Livia Miller, Emory Miller, Megan Wadle and Caitlin Thilges round out that senior group of players.
“I feel like already playing at Wells Fargo Arena definitely helps us get a feel for the atmosphere,” Boelter said. “Being on that big floor was a very cool experience and we’re all excited to go back.”
McGuire averages seven rebounds, Hovey six and Meyers five for the Golden Bears, who lost three games in overtime and three more by single digits, including one to fellow state qualifier North Union.
Schwab has experience coaching at the state tournament, as he was an assistant for Algona when the Bulldogs reached the elite field.
The Golden Bears will face two-time defending state champion Springville (21-3), who also placed second in 2015. The Orioles start four seniors who have all been on those teams.
Rylee Menster leads the way, averaging 17 points, with Mikayla Nachazel at 16. Nichole Kane, a junior, is a former St. Edmond student and the fifth starter.
Menster and Nachazel have each committed to Minnesota State, with Wagaman and Sami Johnson headed to Kirkwood for volleyball.