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DES MOINES – They say defense wins championships and although Le Mars hasn’t quite gotten there yet, the Bulldogs took a giant step in that direction here Tuesday.

No. 9 Le Mars stymied second-ranked Council Bluffs Lewis Central 52-43 in an Iowa Girls State Basketball Class 4A quarterfinal at Wells Fargo Arena. Suffocating defense was the key for the Bulldogs, who handed Lewis Central (22-1) its first loss of the season.

“We were locked in defensively and a great job on that end,” Le Mars Coach Judd Kopperud said. “If you can get stops it’s huge and it kind of feeds your offense as well.”

There were no gimmick defenses, just a straight up man-to-man that harassed Lewis Central into a 13-for-46 (28.3 percent) shooting effort. Le Mars (18-6) went on a 17-0 spurt in the second quarter to take command, then held off a late Titan challenge to advance to a semifinal against Grinnell Thursday at 3:30 p.m.

The Bulldogs got a huge lift from Jaelynn Dreckman, a 6-foot-1 sophomore who came off the bench to score 16 points and grab four rebounds. Dreckman entered the game early in the second quarter and scored two straight hoops, igniting the huge run.

Her presence inside forced Lewis Central to sag defensively, opening up the perimeter. Le Mars took advantage by draining four 3-pointers during the 17-0 run. Annie Ellis made two of the treys while Madison Dreckman and Madison Baumgartner also connected from long range.

“I was just finishing layups and getting amazing passes from my teammates,” Jaelynn Dreckman said. “It all goes back to them. They know when a good time is and when a bad time is and I can’t thank them enough.”

Madison Dreckman – Jaelynn’s cousin and the Bulldogs’ leading scorer this season – finished with 13 points, four rebounds and four assists. Senior Jenn Schneider contributed 10 points.

Lewis Central led 11-8 before going scoreless for nearly five minutes in the second quarter. A basket with 14 seconds remaining made the score 25-13 at halftime after a sloppy first quarter produced a 9-8 Lewis Central advantage.

Le Mars stretched its advantage to 34-19 after three quarters, limiting the Titans to single digits for the second straight stanza. Lewis Central made a charge in the fourth quarter with a 14-2 run and eventually pulled within 43-40 with 2:15 remaining.

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Jaelynn Dreckman, though, got behind the defense for a layup and the Bulldogs were able to ice it from the free throw line, making five in the last minute.

“We knew we were going to have to shoot better here than we had done in the past,” Lewis Central Coach Derek Archer said. “We just struggled making shots. I think we missed seven or eight layups and just couldn’t get anything to fall.

“We turned the ball over way too many times (20) but what hurt was that many of those were unforced errors, just bad passes and bad decisions.”

Maegen Holt of Lewis Central matched Jaelynn Dreckman for game scoring honors with 16 points and posted a double-double with 10 rebounds. Both Holt and Madison Dreckman have committed to the University of Nebraska-Kearney women’s basketball program.

“For the seniors it was difficult to end this way,” Holt said. “I’m proud of the way my teammates have worked so hard and the time we put in to reach this point. We were nervous at the start and just didn’t get settled down in time, but there was no way we were going to give up.”

The win for Le Mars gained a measure of revenge, so to speak. Lewis Central sidelined the Bulldogs in a regional final last season and many of the players are teammates in AAU summer basketball.

“We wanted to match up with them knowing that we could take it to them,” Schneider said. “We wanted to prove that we were the better team, but we can’t give them enough credit. They gave it to us, we just had to prove we wanted it more than they did.”

Le Mars is making its first state appearance since 2002 and draws a third-ranked Grinnell team that rolled past No. 7 Mason City 70-51 on Monday.

“We love playing defense and it’s something we’ve tried to hang our hat on,” Kopperud said. “We’ve had a few lapses during the course of the season but for the most part we’ve been pretty solid and today I thought was one of our better defensive performances of the year.

“It’s a great accomplishment for our girls, they’ve earned it. To be honest, this goes out to all the former players who came first and also to our fans who really came out in full support today.”

Sienna Durr, a Columbia University recruit, scored 24 points and grabbed 17 rebounds for Grinnell in the first round. Grinnell (22-2) shot 58.3 percent from the field and led from start to finish.

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