DES MOINES – Things started out well for Le Mars in an Iowa Girls State Basketball Class 4A semifinal here Thursday, but then came the second quarter.
A talented and athletic Grinnell team sped away from the Bulldogs with a 30-point second-quarter explosion and went on to a 68-47 victory at Wells Fargo Arena.
Third-ranked Grinnell (23-2) will play No. 1 Marion in the 4A championship game Friday night.
No. 9 Le Mars, which sidelined previously unbeaten and second-ranked Council Bluffs Lewis Central in a quarterfinal Tuesday, bolted to a 10-4 lead in the first five minutes and led 13-12 at the end of the first quarter.
However, the roof caved in on the Bulldogs in the second stanza.
Grinnell outscored Le Mars 30-9 in the second quarter, turning the one-point deficit after one quarter to a 20-point halftime cushion, 42-22. It was too much for the Bulldogs to overcome and they bowed out with an 18-7 overall mark.
Macy Harris scored two straight baskets to begin the second quarter and after a Madison Dreckman bucket, Megan Doty and Kameron Moore canned 3-pointers for the Tigers.
Jenn Schneider’s third 3-pointer of the game kept the Bulldogs within 22-18 and Jaelynn Dreckman scored inside to make it 25-20 with four minutes remaining, but Grinnell went on a 17-2 spurt to finish the half.
“After she made those first three 3s it was just an awareness of where we needed to be to shut her off,” Grinnell Coach Trent Edsen said. “Early in the game we lost some of our rotations defensively but that got better as the game wore on.
“We just took control of this game in the second quarter and we’ve been able to do that all season long. Our 3s opened up the game inside for Sienna but she can shoot the three too.”
Sienna Durr, 6-foot senior who will play at Columbia University of the Ivy League, scored a game-high 23 points. Naomi Jackson added 18 points and Harris 15 for Grinnell.
The Tigers forced 20 turnovers and turned those into 27 points. Grinnell launched 28 3-pointers, which isn’t surprising considering it shot 612 during the regular season, making nine.
“It just kind of snowballed for us in the second quarter,” Le Mars Coach Judd Kopperud said. “We lost some of our defensive intensity we had at the beginning and they were able to get to the hoop and all of a sudden hit some shots as well. Their pressure starting bothering us, we kind of got tired and I’m not sure why.
“They’re a very good team and their athleticism gave us some problems. We knew going in it would be a handful for us. All the credit goes to Grinnell, they played very well and deserved to win.”
It’s hard to imagine, but Grinnell missed its first eight shots of the game. Once they started going in, though, the points came in bunches. Which is what the Tigers, who lost only twice to Class 5A Indianola, have done all season.
Madison Dreckman, a junior, paced Le Mars with 11 points, while Schneider tossed in 10 in her final high school game. After hitting the three early treys, Schneider didn’t score again until the fourth quarter.
“It’s hard to dig yourself out of a hole that deep and we just couldn’t chip away when we needed to,” said Schneider, one of three seniors in the starting lineup. “We kind of knew what to expect, they’re a good team and I can’t take anything away from them. We had never seen them before so that triggered it, but I give them credit.”
Le Mars was playing in the state tournament for the first time since 2012 and will return a strong nucleus in Madison Dreckman, Annie Ellis and top reserve Jaelynn Dreckman next season.
“We’re not in that situation very often where we give up a quarter like we did in the second and I think that kind of shell-shocked us,” Kopperud said. “But our kids battled, played hard and gave everything they had. To be state semifinalist and be in the Final Four is a wonderful accomplishment for these kids. I don’t want the end result to take away from what they’ve accomplished.”