The Magic Lives On: Second-half comeback fuels CyHawk victory for Cyclones

Seanna Johnson, junior guard, dribbles down the court at the CyHawk game on Dec. 11.

Kevin Horner

With 2.6 seconds left in the third quarter, Iowa State trailing No. 23 Iowa by 10, senior Kidd Blaskowsky took the snap.

From the opposite baseline, Blaskowsky heaved the ball three-quarters down the court to freshman Meredith Burkhall. Burkhall turned, pulled up and hit the short jumper to beat the third-quarter buzzer and pull the Cyclones within eight. 

Hilton Magic was at work once again.

Kidd’s got as good an arm as any quarterback or any baseball player I’ve seen, “said ISU women’s basketball coach Bill Fennelly. “We [ran] it and it worked perfectly. We were down eight instead of 10, and it’s the end of the quarter. Everybody’s excited.”

From the initial inbound pass of the fourth quarter, the 11,373 people in the stands and the five players on the court began their collaboration. 

A 7-0 ISU run turned into an 11-1 run. That 11-1 run escalated into 21-7. The basket grew for the Cyclones and shrunk for the Hawkeyes. The Iowa lead diminished until it disappeared.

All of a sudden, the unranked Cyclones were leading the No. 23 Hawkeyes by six points with under a minute and a half remaining in the game. However, back-to-back baskets from Iowa junior Ally Disterhoft pulled the Hawkeyes within two.

The Magic was being tested once again.

Burkhall missed a jumper to extend the ISU lead, and sure enough, Disterhoff was there to grab the defensive rebound. Junior Seanna Johnson fouled Disterhoff on the rebound, giving the Hawkeyes a chance to tie with seven seconds to play.

The entirety of Hilton Coliseum rose to its feet — senior Jameel McKay and junior Monté Morris of the men’s basketball team included — and used a variety of methods to try to force a miss from Disterhoft.

The first shot went up: Swish. Hilton got louder. The second shot was released: No good. 

In a play that served as a microcosm for her fourth-quarter performance, Johnson pulled in the rebound.

“I really think Seanna Johnson — I mean she just took this game over,” said Iowa women’s basketball coach Lisa Bluder. “[She] took it upon herself.”

Johnson, who netted 11 of her 22 total points in the fourth quarter and the last seven points for the Cyclones, made both of the ensuing free throws to put the Cyclones up by three.

Disterhoft, who led all scorers with 26 points, heaved a shot from behind the arc on the other end in one final desperate attempt.

The shot fell short.

Iowa State completed the upset, 69-66. The Cyclones defended their beloved home court, preventing the Hawkeyes from winning at Hilton Coliseum yet again, extending Iowa’s drought to 26 years.

The Magic prevailed once again.

“It was crazy,” Johnson said. “The student section helped us tremendously. I [knew] if we had the crowd behind us, we’d be fine. They got us the ‘W.’ The Hilton Magic came alive at the end.”

Johnson’s five rebounds and 11 points in the fourth quarter — accounting for each of Iowa State’s final seven points — led to her seventh double-double of the season, the 20th of her ISU career. 

Burkhall was right behind Johnson in both the scoring and rebounding efforts from the Cyclones. Burkhall tallied 13 points and grabbed eight boards on the night, snatching three key offensive rebounds in the second half. 

Despite the offensive performance, especially in the 23-point ISU fourth-quarter, Fennelly was quick to attribute his defense — along with the crowd behind it — to the comeback victory against the Cyclones’ in-state rivals.

“[Iowa] is a really good team and [we held] them to 66 points,” Fennelly said. “Our kids were tired. There were a couple times [when] they had a hard time getting to the huddle. But when you have that kind of crowd — the advantage that we have here is incredible.”

Not all were believers in the Magic, however. Disterhoft, in particular, downplayed the effect of the crowd.

“Obviously, it’s difficult to play in an atmosphere like that, but that’s not something you’re going to blame a loss on, by any means,” Disterhoft said. “ISU players made plays at the end of the day. Never going to blame it on the atmosphere — ever.”

Regardless of the crowd’s impact or what fueled the ISU comeback, at the end of the day, for the second night in a row, the scoreboard announced the Cyclones’ defeat of the Hawkeyes. For the men, it was a 20-point second half comeback. For the women, it was an 11-point deficit.

After the final buzzer sounded, in similar, yet less-controversial fashion than the men’s game, the dynamic duo — the team and its fans — its Magic — sang out the words of Neil Diamond’s feel-good classic. 

“Sweet Caroline, good times never felt so good.”

“The crowd was in the game,” Fennelly said. “We kept saying, ‘do something, and the crowd will help you. Do something and the crowd will help you.’ And that’s kind of the way it turned out.”