DES MOINES — Down by 11 with 2:57 to play, Derek Archer made one final plea during a timeout.
“This isn't over ... if you believe,” the first-year coach told his team.
The Council Bluffs Lewis Central girls obviously still did.
Sparked by a full-court press they unveiled a minute earlier, the No. 7 Titans (20-4) rallied to cut their deficit to three in the final 90 seconds against No. 5 Cedar Rapids Xavier (15-9) before falling 50-45 in a Class 4-A quarterfinal Wednesday morning at Wells Fargo Arena.
A steal by Lewis Central's Aubrey Norville with the Saints up 46-43 gave the Titans a chance to pull even, or at least closer, with less than 40 second left. But they were whistled for a five-second call with Paige Beacom holding the ball in the frontcourt as Archer was screaming for a timeout from the bench.
Without conferring with one another, officials ruled the five-second call came first.
The Saints then sealed the win at the foul to overcome a 28-point effort by Norville and the late Lewis Central comeback.
“All yearlong, it's been the same. We've been down at times, and they've just never given up,” Archer said. “They amped it up a little bit, got some steals and made some huge shots. It comes back to their will to never give in, never to lose. I can't give enough credit to them.”
After picking up her third and fourth fouls in a six-second span with three minutes left in the third quarter, Norville scored 14 points in the fourth to keep the Titans in it. The 5-foot-10 senior had three consecutive baskets against the 6-2 Ashley Stulken to pull Lewis Central within three, 44-41.
“We've been in that spot before,” Norville said. “I've played with four fouls multiple times. I was frustrated for a second, but we just had to play with it and carry on.”
The Titans trailed 21-17 at the half. Seven Lewis Central turnovers in the third quarter helped the Saints extend their lead. A steal and layup by Sarah Dickes early in the fourth gave Xavier its first double-digit advantage at 35-24 with 6:55 remaining. It stayed there until the Titan rally.
“Lewis Central really got after us, and we kind of lost our poise in running our press,” Xavier coach Tom Lilly said. “They were like sharks smelling blood in the water. They did a great job.”
Natalie Madsen found Alexis Spielman for the first basket of the final surge with 2:46 to go. Norville then scored twice in a row. She followed with a third field goal after a free throw by Dickes.
“Once we scored the first basket, we knew we could still do it,” Madsen said. “We just didn't want to give up. We had nothing to lose. We just gave everything we've got.”
The five-second call came on the only possession in which the Titans could've pulled even.
Norville and Madsen, Lewis Central's lone seniors, said they were happy to have gotten to the state tournament in the first year of Iowa's five-class girls system. The Titans had lost six straight regional finals to current 5-A schools in the previous four-class system before this year.
“In our opinion, the five-class system kind of leveled the playing field for us,” Archer said. “Instead playing schools that are three or four times our size, we're playing (comparable) teams.
“It was a great feeling. We weren't necessarily satisfied with it, though. Our goal was to come down here and win three ballgames.”
CB Lewis Central (20-4)................10 7 7 21—45
Cedar Rapids Xavier (15-9)..........13 8 12 17—50
LC: N. Madsen 2-6 0-0 5, Beacom 1-9 0-0 2, Spielman 2-4 0-0 5, Norville 10-13 8-13 28, K. Madsen 2-4 0-0 5, Higgins 0-0 0-0 0, Sockrider 0-0 0-0 0, Pedersen 0-7 0-1 0. Totals 17-43 8-14 45.
CRX: Armstrong 2-3 0-0 4, Duetmeyer 3-5 2-2 8, S. Dickes 3-5 5-7 13, Bertsch 1-2 1-2 3, Stulken 4-7 4-7 12, Breitbach 0-0 8-10 8, J. Dickes 0-0 0-0 0, Watson 0-1 0-0 0, Bailey 0-0 0-0 0, Andersen 0-2 2-3 2, Chorzempa 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 13-25 22-31 50.
3-point goals: LC 3-7 (N. Madsen 1-3, Beacom 0-2, Spielman 1-1, K. Madsen 1-1), CRX 2-6 (Deutmeyer 0-1, S. Dickes 2-3, Andersen 0-2). Rebounds: LC 22 (Norville, Pedersen 5), CRX 26 (Deutmeyer 6). Assists: LC 11 (K. Madsen 4), CRX 9 (Armstrong 3). Steals: LC 10 (Norville 4), CRX 8 (Bertsch, Breitbach, Andersen 2). Turnovers: LC 16, CRX 20. Total fouls: LC 20, CRX 16. Fouled out: K. Madsen.