Girls State Basketball: Riessen's 3 Sends Harlan To 4A Finals

By Grant Burkhardt and Josh Christensen, Reporters

This game was broadcast live on KCRG 9.2, as every game of the girls and boys state basketball tournaments will be.

DES MOINES, Iowa – Still in her jersey, Naomi Phillips took a long walk from one end of the bowels of Wells Fargo Arena to the other. For the Waverly-Shell Rock senior, the trip probably felt like trekking from one side of Iowa to the other.

Just as Phillips passed the visitor's locker room, out bounced Liz Riessen, already sporting sweats and a red long-sleeve t-shirt. She floated towards the hardwood floor on which she had hit the shot of her life and mouthed, "Oh my gosh."

Riessen's corner 3-pointer with 1:28 to play was the decider as Harlan advanced to the 4A championship game, 41-36, over Waverly-Shell Rock (21-3) on Thursday night.

The Cyclones will play Cedar Rapids Xavier at 6 p.m. Saturday, in a game televised live on KCRG 9.2.

This particular semifinal was a story of two shots. To woefully oversimplify it: One went in, and one didn't.

Harlan (23-2) was in the midst of a 2 for 19 slump from the field, a drought which spanned 17:07, when Taylor Wagner's penetration attracted two Go-Hawk defenders and left Riessen wide open in the right corner. The Cyclone senior made two huge 3s in Harlan's quarterfinal win, and knew she'd have another chance to be a hero.

"I just had a feeling it was coming," Riessen said. "I just had to step up for my team. I was mentally ready for it.

"I don't think I've ever been this happy."

Her last comment drew giggles from giddy teammates, but no one was laughing when Phillips' potential game-tying 3-ball was in the air with 31 seconds left.

Out of a timeout, WSR head coach Greg Bodensteiner drew up a play to get Phillips, the Go-Hawks' dynamic co-leading scorer, the ball. The screen was set, Morgan Neuendorf sent the pass her way, and the shot...hit back iron.

"Man, I thought it was in, I really did," Phillips said, as if she didn't yet believe it hadn't gone down. "Sometimes they just don't go in and you have to live with it, so I'll live with it."

"It was exactly what we wanted," Bodensteiner said. "That was the kid we wanted to take the shot. We executed it well. The difference in the game is theirs went in and ours didn't."

The game came down to those final two 3-point attempts, but Harlan took some semblance of control in the second quarter, when it used a 12-2 run to take a 10-point lead.

Freshman Jordyn Moser came off the bench and provided instant life to the Cyclones' offense, scoring five of her seven points in the first frame. Moser chipped in six rebounds in 20 minutes of play.

Neither team shot the ball well. Waverly-Shell Rock was 14 of 43 (32.6 percent) from the field, and Harlan was worse at 10 of 38 (26.3 percent). The Cyclones made just three field goals in the final 18:34.

After Phillips' miss, WSR was still down three points when Haley Growe was called for an intentional foul around halfcourt. Wagner buried 1 of 2 from the line to ice the game with 5.7 seconds left.

Phillips – eight points, 11 rebounds – said that years from now she won't remember the shot, or losing, but instead the memories of being with "the most fun team" she's ever been around. While that might be true, one thing is certain: Riessen will remember her shot forever.

The levels of "cloud" have never been officially categorized. Is "Cloud 9" the top of the cloud spectrum? Is "Cloud 10" higher or is "Cloud 8"?

Really, it doesn't matter, because as she floated around Wells Fargo Arena Thursday night, the Harlan senior was riding "Cloud 3."

"Number one. It's gotta be number one," she replied, when asked where the shot ranks in her basketball life. "To go to the state championship, that's gotta be number one in my book."
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