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Class 3A State Basketball Preview Ready for another round

Midgets will try to shoot their way past Comets

February 20, 2019
David Swartz - Managing Editor (dswartz@esthervillenews.net) , Estherville News

By David Swartz

Managing Editor

Winning two overtime games and knocking off fourth-ranked Algona in Class 3A Region 1, there's no question Estherville Lincoln Central has earned its way to the state tournament.

Article Photos

However with the worst record of any of the other state qualifiers, the 14-10 Midgets were obviously going to receive the No. 8 seed. That sets up a matchup in Monday's 5 p.m. 3A quarterfinal against top-ranked North Polk (21-2). Monday's winner will play in the 3A semifinal at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 28. The championship game is 8 p.m., Friday, March 1.

"We just need to do the things they got us here and stay focused," said ELC coach Don Martindale, who is wrapping up just his second year coaching this team. "We tell the girls to enjoy the ride. But we want to go down and be as successful as we can be. Our No. 1 job is to play our best and doing the things that got us there."

When the season began, ELC was certain to perform better than last year's 2-20 season.

ELC returned five seniors led by 5-10 guard Josie Condon, who has always been a threat from 3-point range and showed she put in the work to improve this season. Also back was Lindsey Jensen, who at 5-foot-7 has led ELC in rebounding since she was a freshman.

Kendall Evans and Brianne Vermeys were both starters as juniors. Both have shown improvement offensively and defensively this season and are threats from beyond the 3-point arc.

Sydney Swanson had seen varsity minutes as a sophomore, but sat out a year ago with an injury. Her return bolstered the ELC bench and interior defense.

Another key returner was junior Jadynn Moore, who provided a spark off the bench her sophomore season, also has shown her tenacity on offense and defense.

What helped turn the tide for the ELC program was the addition of freshmen Kaitlyn Tendal and Jaydan Nitchals, who have started most games this season. Tendal's ball handling, shooting and driving ability make her a triple threat along with her solid defense. Nitchals also is a solid defender and scorer inside and out.

While ELC struggled with fouls early in the season, a deeper bench helped the Midgets fight through some of the early games. Sophomores Amara Heinrichs and Adrienne Rosfjord have both provided key minutes at times.

Rounding out the bench are junior Laura Humble and freshmen Gabby Paul, Abby Sander and Ally Irwin.

The regular seasion

While ELC started the season 3-4, the Midgets played tough against Algona in the second game of the season and lost by just a handful of points to a tall Spirit Lake team. Other losses were to ranked Lakes Conference foes Cherokee and LeMars.

The Midgets then won four straight before Christmas, including a win against Western Christian for the first time since 2012.

In the New Year, ELC battled tough times against the top-ranked team in 1A, Newell-Fonda, losing against to Cherokee, LeMars and Spirit Lake, and losing rematches to Emmetsburg and Western Christian. ELC had its chances against LeMars in regulation, but ended up losing in overtime.

ELC ended the regular season with wins over Spencer and Storm Lake to finish 11-10.

The postseason

For Class 3A, the postseason is three games-Saturday, Wednesday and Saturday again.

The ELC girls followed their coaches' game plan against Spirit Lake, which boasted a tall 2-3-zone defense that was difficult to penetrate. While ELC didn't shoot its best from the field, the Midgets ran a very deliberate offense to attack the zone. The Midgets then made free throws when it counted in the extra period to pull out the low-scoring 41-36 victory.

Facing fourth-ranked Algona in the regional semifinal, the Midgets faced a similar team that liked to shoot from beyond the arc. When the dust settled, both teams had made nine 3-pointers, but ELC had nine more points from the free throw line in the 67-54 win.

Having not played Sioux Center during the regular season, the region final was an uncertain situation. Yes the Warriors had knocked off 10th-ranked Okoboji, but entered the game with a 10-12 record. Sioux Center showed how it had made its run with its high-pressured defense.

In the 2014-15 season, before any of the current players had begun high school, ELC and Sioux Center met on the basketball court with the Warriors dominating with 16 steals in a 77-23 victory.

Saturday's matchup was obviously more event with Sioux Center battling back from an early 9-2 deficit and eventually forcing overtime. This time ELC would need a little luck. After letting the game slip in regulation with a couple missed free throws, Kendall Evans' 3-pointer with 9 seconds remaining returned ELC to the state tournament for the first time since 2013.

About North Polk

North Polk is one of two teams from the Heart of Iowa Conference at the Class 3A State Tournament this year. The conference's second-place team, Gilbert, was playing for a state berth against Mason City Tuesday night in Class 4A.

One of North Polk's two losses this season was against Gilbert, which is ranked 12th in Class 4A.

North Polk has been rated No. 1 in Class 3A since the start of the season. The Comets' only other loss was to Johnston in the first game of the season. Johnston is rated first in Class 5A in this year's final rankings.

Maggie Phipps, a 5-10 sophomore, leads North Polk with 19.7 points per game. She is shooting 44.6 percent (157-of-352) from the field including 38.6 percent (74-of-192) from 3-point range. She is also a 78 percent free throw shooter. Earlier this season, she has already signed to play for Drake University.

The Comets also have Jaedon Murphy, a 5-10 post player who earned all-tournament team honors a year ago.

"We'll have to keep the ball away from her when she's in the post and will also need to have a lot of defensive help," said ELC coach Don Martindale.

Overall, Martindale said North Polk is a very athletic team.

"Their defense starts their offense," he said. "They use some full-court pressure, but a lot of it is a tough three-quarter-court and half-court man-to-man defense."

Martindale notes both teams are 3-point shooting teams.

North Polk is 166-of-510 (32.5 percent) from beyond the arc while ELC is 177-of-541 (32.7 percent).

At 21-2, North Polk has only had five games decided by less than 10 points and is 4-1 in those games-Dallas Center-Grimes (W54-50), Ballard (W46-39), Roland-Story (W39-37), Grinnell (W75-74) and Gilbert (L49-40).

North Polk won its three regional games easily, defeating Chariton, 62-27, PCM, Monroe, 64-35, and South Tama, 72-34.

 
 
 

 

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