DES MOINES – Dick Jungers wouldn’t bite when asked if his team’s experience in getting to the Iowa Girls State Basketball Tournament Class 1A championship game will pay off Saturday night.
The Mustangs qualified for their fourth 1A title game in the last six years with a 61-49 semifinal win over Central Decatur Friday and play top-ranked and two-time defending champion Springville at 7 o’clock Saturday at Wells Fargo Arena.
“Right now I’m just soaking in a win against a really good team and it hasn’t really sunk in yet that we’re in the championship game,” Jungers said. “But I’m sure it will sink in shortly and we’re going to go out and give it our best effort.”
Truth is, it should be a titanic matchup between familiar state tournament foes. Newell-Fonda and Springville have met three previous times, the most recent in 2016 when Springville won a semifinal en route to its first state title. Newell-Fonda beat Springville 45-43 in 2015 for its first championship and the two also met in 2008.
Behind another strong performance from junior Olivia Larsen, the fourth-ranked Mustangs survived a third-quarter comeback by previously unbeaten Central Decatur.
Newell-Fonda (27-0) saw a 14-point lead slip to three midway through the third quarter. But that’s as close as Central Decatur (26-1) would come as Emma Stewart answered with a 3-pointer and the Mustangs built it back to 49-40 by the end of the quarter.
“I told the girls at halftime good teams are going to make a run at you and they did, hit a couple 3s and scored attacking the basket,” Jungers said. “But we hit a 3 and made another basket. But that’s exactly what you have to do, you can’t clam up and not make a play to match it. Because the teams that don’t match it don’t get to move on.”
Larsen, a junior guard, had 23 points, six rebounds, two assists and four steals. She scored 28 in a quarterfinal win over Kee Lansing.
“You just have to go out and play the way you do every night,” Larsen said. “That’s what makes us so successful, we just do what we need to do.
“All the hard work is paying off, all the open gyms, the weight room, everything has come down to this. Now we just have to go take it.”
Emma Atwood scored 18 points and Alli Masters added 15 points and 10 rebounds for Central Decatur, which has an all-junior starting lineup.
“I think we did all right in the first quarter when it was 10-9 but they just took it to us in the second quarter,” Central Decatur Coach Curtis Boothe said. “I thought we lost our composure a little bit on their press and turned it over a few too many times.
“That being said we still got about as many shots as they did. I challenged them at halftime to come out and play and that’s what we got the whole second half. I’m proud of how we finished the game.”
Newell-Fonda stretched a 10-9 first quarter lead to 35-22 at halftime when Larsen scored 12 points, including two free throws with four seconds remaining.
“All the girls are playing phenomenal defense and Olivia is finding opportunities with how teams are guarding us to create scoring opportunities,” Jungers said. “A couple times she penetrated and kicked to an open shooter who knocked down a 3. That’s what great players do, get their teammates going. When you see it all and make everybody around you that much better, that’s what great teams do.”
Emma Stewart tallied 12 points and Megan Morenz 11 for Newell-Fonda, which is also a young squad with a freshman, sophomore and two juniors in the starting lineup.
Emma Stewart 2-4 6-6 12, Jenna Coppock 0-0 0-0 0, Megan Morenz 5-6 1-3 11, Olivia Larsen6-12 10-16 23, Ella Larsen 3-6 0-2 7, Camryn Wilken 2-4 0-0 6, Bailey Sievers 0-2 0-0 0, Ellie Lago 0-1 0-0 0, Beth Greenfield 0-1 0-0 0, Maggie Walker 0-4 2-2 2, Ashley Archer 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-40 19-29 61.
CENTRAL DECATUR (49)
Alli Masters 6-22 2-3 15, Abbie Ridgway 0-1 1-2 1, Alliey Boswell 2-3 0-2 6, Emma Atwood 6-11 6-11 18, Erica Kauzlarich 1-3 1-2 3, Riley Bell 0-0 0-2 0, Alaina Applegate 0-2 0-0 0, Maizee Lindsey 3-5 0-0 6. Totals 18-47 10-22 49.
3-point shots – Newell-Fonda 6-14 (Stewart 2-4, Wilken 2-3, O. Larsen 1-3, E. Larsen 1-2, Lago 0-1, Greenfield 0-1). Fouled out – Boswell. Rebounds – Newell-
Fonda 25 (O. Larsen 6), Central Decatur 33 (Masters 10). Assists – Newell-Fonda 7 (Morenz 2, O. Larsen 2), Central Decatur 7 (Atwood 3). Turnovers – Newell-Fonda 20, Central Decatur 21. Total fouls – Newell-Fonda 18, Central Decatur 21.