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Iowa high school girls basketball state tournament: Council Bluffs St. Albert outlasts Algona Garrigan in 1A quarterfinal

North Linn, Newell Fonda and Remsen St. Mary's were also winners
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DES MOINES, IOWA – Council Bluffs St. Albert knocked off two-time defending state champion Algona Garrigan in a battle between two Catholic schools in the 4- vs 5-seed matchup Wednesday in the Class 1A field of the girls state basketball tournament.

The Saintes built a 15-point advantage and held off the Golden Bears, who clawed to within five on three separate occasions thanks to their tenacious full-court press – the latest being at 43-38 with 5:23 left in the game. 

However, St. Albert was able to figure out the press and pulled away, taking advantage of a 10-3 run.

Veteran head coach Dick Wettengel knew the two-time defending champions were not going to go away easily, even though Garrigan graduate Miss Basketball Audi Crooks is now tearing up the Big 12 at Iowa State.

“We knew (the press) was coming, and we talked about it at halftime,” said Wettengel, who’s in his 31st season. “With games of this magnitude, it’s all about runs, and I told the girls you’ve got to withstand their run. They’re gonna make a run. These guys are champions. They’re just not gonna roll over, and they didn’t.

“I thought we did a great job withstanding it though and getting it back up a little bit to give us some breathing room in the fourth.”

Garrigan coach Brandon Schwab said he had to change up the game plan with the way St. Albert was having its way inside early. Although he preferred to press when 6-foot-4 Missy Evezic was taking a breather, he had to go with it.

“We knew we were going to press at some point, and we wanted to when Evezic was out of the game because I was fearful that if they beat it they’d throw it in to her and she’s going one on one.

“I said at halftime we’ve got to change the pace of this game. It was too much half court. We came out in our run-and-jump and got it down to five and had a chance.”

The Golden Bears had their share of open shots down the stretch, but the rim was not kind in the fourth quarter. They made just 2 of 15 (13.3 percent) field goals and made only one of nine (11.1 percent) from 3-point range. They made 53.8 percent of their shots in the third quarter – many that resulted in easy baskets off turnovers.

“I thought we got a little tired down the stretch, and we missed a lot of shots in the fourth quarter,” Schwab said. “We had good looks, but we just didn’t make them.

“All the credit to them. They played great and deserved to win.”

Avah Underwood had a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds, and she also dished out five assists – all team highs for the Saintes. Lily Krohn was the only other player in double figures with 12 points.

Garrigan got a double-double as well, getting 10 points and 13 boards, including six on the offensive glass, from freshman Graclyn Eastman. Abbie Capesius just missed a double-double with nine points and 10 rebounds and was a key in the comeback with six steals – many off the press in the third quarter. Sacha Alesch chipped in eight points.

The Golden Bears went the final 5:32 of the first quarter without out a field goal and saw an early 6-2 lead turn into a 14-7 deficit when Ella Klusman knocked down a 3-pointer with 3 seconds left to give the Saintes a 14-6 lead at the break.

St. Albert continued to roll, capping a 17-1 run when Lilly Krohn hit a trifecta and Avah Underwood made a layup, making it a 19-7 lead with 6:45 showing on the second quarter clock. The advantage ballooned to 15 before the Golden Bears scored the final three points to make it 28-16 at halftime.

Wettengel was impressed with his team, especially having never played at Wells Fargo Arena before where Garrigan has been a regular.

“I thought we had an excellent start -- for these kids having never been on this floor before and their kids having a lot of experience here,” Wettengel said. “I think that propelled us a long way.”

The Saintes led by double digits most of the third quarter, but the Golden Bears turned up the defense late and closed the gap to 39-34 at the break with an 11-2 flurry, capped by Emmi Bartolo’s 3-pointer from the right wing with 26 seconds showing on the clock.

St. Albert opened the game back up to double digits with a 10-3 run as Garrigan’s only basket in the final 6:51 came on a corner 3 from Montag.

“Getting the ball inside was key,” Wettengel said. “I thought Eva and Missy were a force inside at that point. That was our game plan late.”

Underwood knew what her team had to do to hold off the defending champions.

“We understood what we needed to do to withstand the run,” she said. “Getting our defense going – that creates our offense. We knew what we could do and stuck to it.

“The press bothered us for a little bit, but we found a groove within the press and were able to pull away from it. We stuck to our game plan, and it was exciting to see what we could do as a team.”

“We knew they were going to have a run and score some baskets on us,” said Ellie Monahan, who had eight points. “It was all about how we handled that and played defense even if they were on a run and scored baskets on them.”

Monahan also credited the Saintes’ reserves, who contributed seven points and nine rebounds.

“I think what really helps us stay strong throughout the game is our bench. It helps keep us energized when there’s several people that can go in.”

Garrigan finishes the season a remarkable 23-2 after losing Crooks and many others, while St. Albert moves on to face the North Linn at 1:30 p.m. Friday.

“Boy they can press,” Wettengel said. “They’re an excellent team. They’ve got some great quality wins, beating Mount Vernon, and they showed pretty good here this week (blowing out Harlan). We’ll have our work cut out for us. We’ll watch some film, get a practice in and get ready for what they bring to the table.”

Lynx rout Montezuma

North Linn did what a No. 1 seed is supposed to do in the first round – get up early and blow out the opponent. Ranked No. 8 in SB Live’s all-class top 25, the Linx cruised to a 68-38 victory over Montezuma in the quarterfinals in the 1A opener.

The Lynx scored the first eight points en route to a 11-2 lead at the end of the first quarter and turned the game into a blowout with a 35-6 halftime cushion thanks to 61.5 percent shooting and a 28-0 points-in-the pain advantage.

North Lynn, which shot 55.1 percent from the field and 40 percent from beyond the arc, is making its sixth straight trip to the state tournament and ninth in the last 11 seasons under the tutelage of Brian Wheatley.

Montezuma, which had 15 of its 22 turnovers in the first half, competed well in the second half, only getting outscored by one point (33-32).

Senior Macy Boge – a 1,000-point scorer – led the Lynx in scoring with 20 points, knocking down 4 of 5 3-pointers. Senior Kamryn Kurt, the second leading scorer in North Linn history with more than 1,500 points and also the school’s all-time assist leader, had 15 points and six assists. Allie Haughenbury and Molly Boge also reached double figures with 12 and 11 points respectively.

Ellen Cook led the Bravettes with 12 points and Claire Erselius had a solid game with 10 points and a game-high seven rebounds.

Montezuma finishes the season 20-5, while the 24-1 Lynx advance to face Council Bluffs St. Albert.

Mustangs stampede into semis – again

Newell-Fonda advanced to the state semifinals for the seventh consecutive season with a 68-30 blowout victory over Calamus-Wheatland.

Nine players scored for the Mustangs, led by head coach Dick Jungers’ daughter Kierra Jungers with 15 points and five of her team’s 24 steals. Kinzee Hinders chipped in 14 points to go with seven rebounds and four steals, and McKenna Sivers hit double figures with 10 points and had a nice floor game with seven assists and five steals.

They jumped all over the Warriors for the opening tip, scoring the game’s first 14 points in less than 3 minutes. Isabel Bartek drained consecutive 3-pointers and McKenna Sivers followed with a trifecta to make it 14-0 at the 5:19 mark.

The Mustangs led 23-11 after one quarter and 41-20 at halftime, then blew the game wide open by making 9 of 12 shots in a 19-2 third quarter outburst for a 60-22 lead, hitting the running clock in the process.

Newell-Fonda shot 67 percent in the first half and 52.7 percent for the game. It outscored Calamus-Wheatland 46-12 in the paint and held the Warriors to 10 points in the second half.

Calamus-Wheatland (24-2), which was playing in its first ever state tournament, was led by Kahlie Hill with nine points. The Warriors’ only other loss was to top-ranked North Linn, which also will play in the 1A semifinals on Friday.

The Mustangs (23-2) advance will play Remsen St. Mary’s at 3:15 p.m. Friday.

Remsen St. Mary’s takes down Blue Devils

Remsen St. Mary’s pulled away from Martensdale-St. Marys after a sluggish start to post a 52-33 win in the last quarterfinal game.

After going over six minutes without scoring but only trailing 6-4 after the first quarter, the Hawks scored nine straight to forge ahead after a low-scoring first quarter where the teams combined for 14 turnovers and shot 19 percent (4 of 21).

Their biggest lead of the half came at 22-11 on a Tessa Tentlinger jumper with 54 seconds left in the second quarter. M-SM cut the gap to 22-16 at halftime as Brynnly German scored five points in the last minute.

The Blue Devils cut the deficit to four when German scored the first basket of the second half, but Remsen St. Mary’s went back up double digits, 29-18, on a three by Mya Bunkers halfway through the quarter and held a 33-23 advantage heading into the fourth.

The Hawks, which stretched the lead to 20 in the final minutes of the game, Hawks converted 61.5 percent second quarter and 55.6 percent in the fourth.

Three Remsen St. Mary’s players scored in double figures – Carmindee Ricke with 13, along with seven rebounds, Claire Schroeder with 11 and Whitney Jensen with 10.

German carried the Blue Devils with 19 points and seven rebounds. Leading scorer Sophia Shannon came into the game averaging 14.7 points per game but was held to just three, which tied for second most points on the team.

M-SM (18-7) came into the game with 230 3-pointers on the season – 9.6 per game but was held to four on 23.5 percent shooting from behind the arc.

Remsen St. Mary’s (24-0) moves on the face Newll-Fonda at 3:15 p.m. Friday

--Chris Short | @SBLiveIA