SCHALLER - Sportscaster Al Michaels once asked, "Do you believe in miracles?" The answer in Aurelia this morning is a resounding, "Yes!"
The Aurelia Bulldogs, owners of a 9-12 record in an up-and-down season, faced a stiff challenge here on Feb. 26, as they faced Northwest Conference rival Alta in District Tournament play. The Cyclones had won two one-sided games against the Bulldogs this season, by scores of 66-35 and 90-53, had a 22-0 season record, and were ranked number one in the state in Class 1A.
Monday night, though, coach Grant Peckenschneider's 2006-2007 Bulldogs beat the number one-ranked Cyclones, 83-79, evoking memories of Coach Duane Buttenob's 1985 Bulldogs, who took a losing record into tournament play, and went all the way to the substate.
An elated Peckenschneider exclaimed, "What a game! Both teams came out hot. Alta hit six threes in the first quarter, (accounting for ) 18 of their 19 first quarter points." Despite this, the Cyclones only held a two-point lead at the quarter break. Peckenschneider told his team that they had "weathered the first storm, and were still in it."
Peckenschneider had told his team that to have a shot at winning the game, the Bulldogs needed to be the more assertive team in the "hustle" categories - rebounding, charges, loose balls, and getting back on defense - and, he said, "for the most part, I think we did all those things. We just played with confidence all night, and hustled all over the court."
Peckenschneider applauded his team for doing "something they will remember the rest of their lives. They have proven to everyone in the state these last two games that records do indeed mean nothing, come tournament time."
Aurelia outscored Alta 16-9 in the second quarter, and 26-19 in the third, to take a 59-47 lead into the final quarter. They built that lead to 19 points, but the Cyclones roared back to tie the game 77-77.
With the score tied at 79, Aurelia's Jacob Bruce dished a pass to Dustin Wieland, who made the basket with six seconds remaining, and added a free throw when he was fouled on his shot. The Cyclones then turned the ball over, and Aurelia added another free throw to make the final score 83-79, Bulldogs.
Jacob Bruce hit 11 of his 13 field goal attempts and led the team in scoring with 22 points. Tanner Winterhof added 21, including 4 of 7 from three-point land, and 5 of 6 free throws. Gabe Fuller scored 13, Aaron Bruce 9, Ross Fitzgerald and Wieland six apiece, and Jared Bruce four, to finish out the Bulldog scoring.
The Bulldogs hit 64 percent of their free throw attempts as a team, much better than they have in some games this season, and hit 57 percent from the field- 62 percent on two-point attempts and 42 percent on 12 three-point attempts.
Fuller and Jacob Bruce paced the team in rebounding with nine and six, respectively; Jared Bruce had four steals and Winterhof three; Jared Bruce dished out six assists and brother Jacob four for the Bulldogs.
Tyler Boyd led Alta with 27 points, while Aaron Hansen added 13 and Jordan Hinkeldey 11. The Cyclones wind up their season with a 22-1 mark. Peckenschneider congratulated Alta on a great season, and added that he thinks Cyclone coach Bart Smith is a "great coach, and I have a lot of respect for him and his players."
In other District action Monday night at Newell-Fonda, WLVA beat Sac City 55-37.
Aurelia will take a 10-12 record into the District Championship game against Wall Lake View-Auburn at Cherokee Washington.