CEDAR RAPIDS — The Wilton girls basketball team got to this point by being the aggressor.
The Beavers blitzed their first two postseason opponents in the opening minutes of each game and rode the early momentum to wins. The shoe was on the other foot Monday night.
Class 2A No. 8 North Linn jumped out to a double-digit lead over Class 2A No. 10 Wilton in the opening quarter and never looked back in a 79-48 win in the Class 2A District 5 title game at Cedar Rapids Prairie High School.
The loss ended the Beavers’ season with a 21-3 record and sent the Lynx to the state tournament.
“The biggest thing was (we were) turning the ball over and giving them layups on the other end,” Wilton coach Jeremy Putman said. “We haven’t been doing that lately and we did a lot of that tonight.”
The margin was never within single digits after the opening quarter, and it was clear the Beavers didn’t have the same aggression that got them to this point.
“I think we played very timid,” senior Emily Lange said. “We turned the ball over several times and that’s just not like us. Usually, we’re very confident where we’re going to put the ball and that just wasn’t how we played tonight.”
To compound Wilton’s issues, senior Kortney Drake picked up her third foul early in the second quarter and was relegated to the bench for the remainder of the half. It was a big blow for a team short on depth.
North Linn took a 41-19 lead into the locker room on the strength of a 22-2 run in an eight-minute stretch to end the first and begin the second quarter. It was an offensive clinic for the Lynx, as they had 14 assists of their 23 assists before halftime. All told, all five starters scored in double figures for North Linn led by Grace Flanagan’s 18 points.
“We haven’t seen a team like them this year,” Putman said. “(They) have great shooters at every position. … We just weren’t ready.”
Wilton had issues scoring, too, as North Linn face guarded both Drake and Lange and dared the other three Wilton players on the court to shoot.
“When you’re standing there wide open you have time to think about it,” Putman said. “That’s they were doing, they were just thinking too much.”
Lange led Wilton with 19 points, while Drake poured in 15, all in the second half. The Beavers eventually found their footing in the third quarter and outscored the Lynx by two. But by then it was too late, as Wilton trailed 58-38 with just one quarter to play.
The loss ended the careers of five Wilton, including Lange, Drake and Aubrey Putman, who have been the driving force of the program’s turnaround over the last four seasons.
"It’s crazy, we’ve been playing together since third or fourth grade with coach Putman,” Lange said. “It was a fun ride.”
Although Wilton lost one game short of its goal, coach Putman wants his seniors to focus on the good they did this season, such as winning a River Valley Conference title and winning a school record 21 games.
“They’ve meant so much over the four years they’ve played,” Putman said of his seniors. “We can’t let one loss define our season.”