DES MOINES – Olivia Larsen went over, around and through the Kee Lansing defense, leading Newell-Fonda to a 61-45 triumph in an Iowa Girls State Basketball Tournament Class 1A quarterfinal Wednesday at Wells Fargo Arena.
Larsen tossed in 28 points, scoring on a variety of different moves to the basket as the Mustangs remained unbeaten and advanced to a Friday semifinal at 3:15 p.m. The 5-foot-6 junior made 12 of 19 shots en route to her breakout game at the state tournament.
Fourth-ranked Newell-Fonda improved its record to 25-0 behind Larsen and its attacking defense, which forced 23 turnovers and scored 28 points off those miscues.
“That's our main priority,” Larsen said. “They say defense wins games and that's what we do. Our defense is great and what gets us to where we are today.”
Larsen, averaging 19.5 points per game, had 22 by halftime but it took her conventional 3-point play with three seconds remaining to give the Mustangs a 31-28 lead at the break. Newell-Fonda opened up a cushion by scoring the first nine points of the third quarter and maintained the comfortable advantage in the second half.
“I think we kind of got into their legs a little bit in the second half,” Newell-Fonda Coach Dick Jungers said. “Our kids just kept turning the wheels and going and going and going and we were able to finally create some baskets to extend the lead out.
“Olivia was very explosive and got to the rim a few times and knocked down a couple shots. She had a fantastic game and that's what you need. You need kids to step up and make a lot of plays and she did today.”
Newell-Fonda, the 2015 1A champion, is now 7-2 in opening-round games under Jungers.
Larsen, of course, keyed the third-quarter surge. She was fouled while driving to the hoop and scored and although she missed the ensuing free throw, hustled for the rebound and scored again.
Two more Larsen free throws and a 3-pointer by Emma Stewart pushed the Mustang advantage to 39-28 three minutes into the third quarter.
Stewart was also in double figures with 11 points, while sophomore Megan Morenz had six points and 10 rebounds.
“Coach said just attack their 1-3-1 because it gets wide when you reverse the ball,” Larsen said. “He said go off reversal and then attack. Everyone did that tonight, we reversed it, attacked it, gave it to our bigs and they went up and did their thing.”
Kendra Cooper had a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds and Nicki Wood 12 points. Chloe Severson pulled down a whopping 18 rebounds as Kee held a 40-29 advantage. Cooper will play softball at Luther and Severson at Coe.
Kee is the two-time defending Iowa Class 1A state softball champion and was playing in the state basketball tournament for the second time in school history. The Hawks' only previous loss this season was to Class 3A No. 1 Crestwood.
“No. 40 (Larsen) was obviously the difference in the game,” Kee Coach Lisa Steckel said. “She can do everything and she couldn't miss. Whether she drives, shoots or dishes off, she is a very good player. It's hard to prepare until you really get on the floor and face a player like that. You can watch on film but it's different when you're out there doing it.
“It's not that our girls weren't playing good defense, because I think they were doing a nice job, but she's a very good player. Smart.”