The gap between top-ranked Johnston and the rest of the girls’ basketball teams in Class 5A appears to be pretty sizable.
The host Dragons raced out to a 42-17 halftime lead and rolled to a 70-49 victory over No. 8 Ankeny in a CIML Conference game on Friday. They improved to 2-0 in the league and 3-0 overall, while the Hawkettes’ records dropped to 0-2 and 2-2.
Johnston has played in the last four Class 5A championship games and won state titles in 2020 and 2022. The Dragons are now 95-6 since the beginning of the 2019-20 season.
“You feel like you have one player in check, then they have an elite player that gets open somehow. That happened quite a few times,” said Ankeny coach Nate Tobey. “Our girls battled hard and were up to the task defensively at times, but just didn’t string together enough stops to be in the game in the first half.”
Johnston jumped out to a 21-11 lead in the first quarter. The Dragons then outscored Ankeny, 21-6, in the second period.
“We’ll work on some things to help us out in the first half of these games,” said Tobey, whose team also fell behind early in a loss at No. 7 Waukee on Tuesday. “I felt like we learned some valuable things toward the end of the first half going into the second. That’ll be helpful for us moving forward, but we definitely need to work on our starts to these games–especially against the best teams.”
The Hawkettes outscored Johnston in the second half, 32-28. Cassie Johnson provided a spark with nine points on a trio of 3-point goals.
“She played really well on both ends,” Tobey said. “She has a really nice shot, and she’s made a lot of shots for us in the offseason. We worked on some minor things the last few days to get her in better position to have some open shots, and she knocked them down in the second half.”
Iowa State recruit Aili Tanke scored 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting to lead Johnston’s balanced attack. Amani Jenkins, a transfer from Des Moines North, had 11 points and seven rebounds.
Reserve Averie Ryan also contributed 11 points and seven boards for the Dragons.
Jayla Williams led Ankeny with 18 points. Karsen Jacks chipped in 14 points and four assists, while Ainsley Kiene added eight points and eight rebounds.
The Hawkettes will travel to Southeast Polk on Tuesday for another conference game against the No. 11 Rams, who are 0-1 in the league and 3-1 overall after losing to Waukee, 55-41, on Friday.