Johnston 47, Dowling Catholic 38

Johnston’s bid for a third straight trip to the state championship game got off to a slow but successful start.

Anna Gossling scored 19 points and two teammates reached double figures as the top-seeded and unbeaten Dragons turned back Dowling Catholic 47-38 in the Class 5A quarterfinals to start the 2022 state tournament.

Johnston has been the state title favorite all season after winning it all in 2020 and finishing second last year. But the Dragons (24-0) had to work to get past a Dowling Catholic team they beat 60-28 just 2 ½ weeks ago. The Maroons kept hanging around even after Johnston twice built 11-point leads and Johnston needed Gossling’s clutch free throw shooting at the end to secure the victory.

Sophomore Aaliyah Riley added 11 points and three assists for Johnston, while University of Iowa signee Jada Gyamfi put together a 10-point, 11-rebound double-double.  The Dragons survived a long scoring drought in the first half to shoot 50 percent (16-of-32) for the game.

Marin Heller, a 5-foot-4 freshman, led Dowling Catholic with a 13 points on 6-for-10 shooting , while Emma Gripple scored 10 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. The Maroons,  who made it to state for the 23rd time, finish 18-7, with three of the losses to Johnston and one each to state tournament qualifiers Ankeny Centennial and West Des Moines Valley.

Gossling hit two 3-pointers in the opening 3:40 to help Johnston take an 8-0 lead, but the Dragons didn’t make another basket until Riley scored in the lane at the 5:57 mark in the second quarter, enabling the Maroons to get back in it.

Dowling twice took a one-point lead before a 10-2 run pulled the Dragons ahead 23-16 just before halftime. They made five of their first six shots in the second half to expand the lead to 33-22 but still could not put the Maroons away.

Heller’s layup and a later free throw cut the lead to 42-36 with 1:28 to go, but the Maroons were forced into fouling and Gossling went 5-for-6 at the line to nail it down and send the Dragons into a semifinal game at 10 a.m. on Thursday.