No. 9 Trojans remain on top

West Marshall keeps NICL West lead by beating 1A No. 10 AGWSR

T-R PHOTO BY STEPHEN KOENIGSFELD • West Marshall’s Isabelle Gradwell (24) shoots a layup over AGWSR’s Maddie Brandt (44) during Friday night’s NICL West Conference match in Ackley. Gradwell had 16 points in the Trojans’ 68-49 win.

T-R PHOTO BY STEPHEN KOENIGSFELD • West Marshall’s Isabelle Gradwell (24) shoots a layup over AGWSR’s Maddie Brandt (44) during Friday night’s NICL West Conference match in Ackley. Gradwell had 16 points in the Trojans’ 68-49 win.

ACKLEY — The AGWSR girls’ basketball team knew well coming in to Friday night’s game against West Marshall, it was going to be a physical bout; one that would surely exhaust the losing team.

So when the two ranked teams — the Class 1A 10th-ranked Cougars (8-2, 4-1 NICL West) and the Class 3A ninth-ranked Trojans (10-0, 6-0 NICL West) — took the floor, West Marshall was able to outlast its opponent in nearly every facet of the game, taking a 68-49 win back to State Center with it.

Brooke Snider posted a career-high 18 points on four made 3-pointers and Emma Meyer accompanied her with 17 more on seven made field-goals to propel the Trojans in remaining perfect this year.

“We beat the teams we thought would be at the top of the conference, and we’ve got to play them again,” said West Marshall head coach Fred Zeller. “And they’re getting better. We looked at Grundy Center and they’re progressing offensively. We don’t take anybody for granted, but this is one we’re going to hold on to over the weekend.”

Offensively, the Trojans could do no wrong. With Meyer posting 10 points in the first half and Gradwell having 12 of her 16 points in the same frame, the ball was flowing right out of the hands of shooters and into the basket.

T-R PHOTO BY STEPHEN KOENIGSFELD

T-R PHOTO BY STEPHEN KOENIGSFELD

Zeller said with Gradwell’s ability to both drive to the basket as well as be an elite threat on the perimeter, the offense was opened up drastically for other players.

Snider had constant open looks, adding three more field goals to her four 3s. Kayla Cripps posted seven points, all coming in the second half while penetrating the Cougars’ zone defense.

In a match that was more about conference record than actual rankings, the Trojans were able to tip the scales in their favor.

“We thought we didn’t want to play the zone because of their [perimeter] shooting, so we played the man,” said AGWSR head coach Laurie Gann. “But with all our five spots versus their five spots, they’re quicker. So that dictated the game. We wanted to control tempo, but when they jumped out so quick, then we had to readjust.”

West Marshall leapt ahead 23-12 after the first quarter. The Cougars battled back with junior Mandy Willems, who posted a career-high 23 points in the loss. Zeller said while the West Marshall defense was stout for most of the night, when it wasn’t, Willems made the Trojans pay.

T-R PHOTO BY STEPHEN KOENIGSFELD

T-R PHOTO BY STEPHEN KOENIGSFELD

West Marshall led as much as 22-6 in the first eight minutes, and had physical play to thank.

That’s the kind of style Zeller and company want to run. The Trojans stole the ball eight times, with Snider tallying five of them during her career night. Gradwell also pulled down a team-best seven rebounds.

All the while, the Trojans kept AGWSR leading-scorer Maddie Brandt at bay with just seven points — four of which came in the second half.

Something Gann said the Cougars will have to do to remain competitive against teams that will flex their physical guns small but quick Cougar lineup is practicing a physical style of play during the weekdays, so it can come prepared on the weeknights.

“We’ve got to learn how to play through that,” Gann said. “We’ve got to get loose balls and things like that. We’ve got to learn to adjust and play better than that. The physical play is something we’ve got to improve on, and good teams will play us like that. We’ve got to get it on the practice floor, keep working on it and get better at.”

T-R PHOTO BY STEPHEN KOENIGSFELD

T-R PHOTO BY STEPHEN KOENIGSFELD

The schedule won’t let up for the Cougars, who take on Class 2A No. 10 Rockford at home today, before grabbing a NICL West showdown at South Hardin on Tuesday and a trip to Grundy Center on Friday.

For West Marshall, it’ll look to continue its streak with matches at Meskwaki on Tuesday and a home game with East Marshall on Friday.

West Marshall 68, AGWSR 49

WEST MARSHALL (10-0, 6-0) — Brooke Snider 7 0-0 18, Shannon Breja 2 0-1 4, Kayla Cripps 3 1-1 7, Isabelle Gradwell 6 4-4 16, Emma Meyer 7 1-2 17, Georgia Porter 0 0-0 0, Madde Green 1 0-0 3, Teresa Disney 1 1-2 3. TOTALS 27 7-10 68.

AGWSR (8-2, 4-1) — Mandy Willems 9 1-2 23, Aubrie Fisher 3 0-2 9, Addi Johnson 2 0-1 4, Mariah Jimmerson 1 0-0 2, Maddie Brandt 3 1-2 7, Ally Finger 0 0-0 0, Taryan Barrick 1 1-4 3, Rachel Sicard 1 0-0 2. TOTALS 20 2-10 49.

T-R PHOTO BY STEPHEN KOENIGSFELD

T-R PHOTO BY STEPHEN KOENIGSFELD

WM 23 14 12 19 — 68

AGWSR 12 13 11 13 — 49

3-Point Goals–WM 7 (Snider 4, Meyer 2, Green), AGWSR 7 (Willems 4, Fisher 3). Totals Fouls–WM 10, AGWSR 13.