The Burlington High School girls basketball team needed a win.
Boy, did the Grayhounds need a win.
It had been 41 days since BHS had tasted the sweet fruits of victory.
So as the final second ticked off of the Grayhounds' 40-28 victory over Clinton on Thursday night on the Don Gibbs Court at Johannsen Gymnasium, the Grayhounds were savoring every last second of the win.
And then the celebration began in earnest in the locker room.
Boy, did the Grayhounds need this win.
"It feels amazing. It's one of the best feelings ever," said BHS senior Angel Baylark, who sank a pair of early jumpers and was a force on the boards from start to finish. "We've been playing hard, but the wins just weren't coming. It was frustrating, but we just kept going, so that's how we got to this point to win and play as a team."
"It was really big because we have three games in a row. We want to keep our momentum going so we can win more games," said BHS senior Mackenzie Kerns, who knocked down a pair of 3-pointers in the first quarter to jump-start the BHS offense. "We were really motivated. We had all of our players on the bench, so that really helped and the crowd was into the game. We were all gelling together. It was really nice."
"The girls had a day off and I was giving them a day off yesterday anyway, but I told them to come with intensity," BHS coach Dee Dee Warner said. "We played Keokuk Tuesday night and we were in that game until the last five or six minutes. We played with a bunch of intensity. We brought that forward again today and I was very proud of them."
BHS (3-13), which had lost nine straight games since a victory over Mount Pleasant on Jan. 3, raced out of the gate with a 3-pointer by Kerns, who also scored on a layup and buried another trey as the Grayhounds forged a 10-4 lead.
"I feel like that set the pace. I feel like we all clicked together tonight," said Kerns, who just three hours earlier signed to play soccer at Southeastern Community College in the fall.
"She's been working on them a lot during practice, so we're glad they fell down for them," Warner said.
Baylark swished her first two shots, both jumpers from the right wing.
"I haven't really been able to shoot, but I've been working on it in practice and tonight they fell," said Baylark, who will play volleyball and run track at Iowa Central Community College next year. "Three or four years ago I wasn't a big fan of basketball, but it grew on me. It is so fun. I really do love basketball."
The Grayhounds, after holding Clinton (2-19) to just two points in the second quarter, took command in the third quarter.
After the River Queens trimmed the BHS lead to 19-17 by scoring the first four points of the second half, BHS responded with a 10-3 run. Bailey Wiemann scored the first five points of that run for the Grayhounds, while Alexis Standard scored the final five.
Ariana Warner hit a free throw midway through the fourth quarter, then came up with a steal and converted it into a layup as the Grayhounds pulled away.
"I told our girls you have to box out. Quit letting them push you underneath the basket. Box out, hold your ground and go up and get the ball," Warner said. "Angel and Ariana can jump out of the gym, so that helps out quite a bit. Bailey Wiemann as well."
At long last, BHS felt the thrill of victory.
But the Grayhounds don't have time to rest on their laurels. BHS hosts Fort Madison at 7:45 p.m. today, then hosts Fairfield in another Southeast Conference makeup game at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
BHS plays at Fairfield on Feb. 19 in a Class 4A regional quarterfinal game.
"Now we're going to have that momentum right before regionals," Baylark said.
"That was really big. We did really good working together and getting our shots," Kerns said.
"It feels good to take that momentum forward, so the girls felt really good about tonight," Warner said. "We're going to try to keep that for the next three or four games."
Elle Davis 4-19 2-2 12, Selena Tello 0-5 0-0 0, Rylie Mussman 1-7 0-0 3, Molly Shannon 2-8 0-0 4, Makenzie Cooley 3-6 1-2 7, Payton Luett 0-0 0-0 0, Avery Dohrn 0-1 0-0 0, Michelle Powell 1-1 0-0 2. Totals: 11-46 3-4 28.
Ariana Baylark 2-6 2-4 6, Angel Baylark 3-14 0-0 6, Bailey Wiemann 3-4 2-3 9, Mackenzie Kerns 3-9 2-2 10, Alexis Standard 1-7 2-2 5, Bre Porter 2-8 0-0 4. Totals: 14-50 8-11 40.
Score by quarters
Fouls: Clinton 12, Burlington 11. Fouled out: None. Technicals: None. 3-point goals: Clinton 3-24 (Davis 2-14, Mussman 1-6, Tello 0-2, Shannon 0-2), Burlington 4-20 (Kerns 2-8, Wiemann 1-1, Standard 1-4, An. Baylark 0-2, Porter 0-5).
Records: Clinton 2-19, Burlington 3-13.