Spartans swat Trojans, 38-26
2A No. 8 Grundy Center holds 3A No. 14 West Marshall to 3 second-half points
GRUNDY CENTER — Tuesday night’s NICL West Division showdown between the Class 2A No. 8 Grundy Center girls and 3A No. 14 West Marshall was a battle that would have made the ancient military factions each team is named after proud.
The Trojans hit the Spartans hard between the eyes in the first quarter, taking a 13-3 lead after the first eight minutes, but Grundy Center went on to win each of the next three quarters and take down West Marshall, 38-26, and stay tied atop the NICL West standings with AGWSR.
Spartans head coach Matt Lindeman said all credit for the win goes to the way his girls played defense, a defense that held the Trojans to just three total points in the second half.
“West Marshall is a very good team and we had to be at our very best, it didn’t start out that way but this was just a total team effort tonight,” Lindeman said after the win. “The kids really dug in, especially after halftime. We got after it pretty good and they responded well and somehow we were able to get some baskets to fall in the fourth quarter and extend that lead a little bit and we were able to close it out.”
Grundy Center (15-1, 9-1) actually didn’t possess a lead in the game until junior Reegan Zinkula sunk a basket off a steal with 7 minutes, 10 seconds left in the fourth quarter to put her Spartans up 25-23. Zinkula said she was happy to get in the bucket to put her squad ahead, and the way the crowd reacted got her and the team even more excited to keep up the tough defense.
“It felt really good because I got the steal to start that by getting out and playing defense,” Zinkula said. “Our whole defense is the main key here, I got out and got the steal, fought for it and went up and even when it wasn’t in the first time I stayed with it and hearing the crowd afterwards being really supportive, that really just got our team to just keep going.”
Zinkula’s basket wouldn’t have been for the lead if not for a score by junior Kylie Willis to start the final frame that tied things up at 23-all. Willis, who scored four of her seven points in the final eight minutes, said hitting that shot to tie things up was such a good feeling, knowing the team had finally gotten back in the game after climbing out of such a deep hole in the first quarter.
“It was like a sigh of relief,” Willis said. “Like ‘OK we got it, now let’s focus on getting the lead now and play good, solid defense like we were.'”
Junior Hailey Wallis was the lead scorer for Grundy Center with 10 points, seven of which came during the final quarter. Willis was next with her seven, followed by Maddie McMartin with six and Zinkula and Brooke Flater with five each.
Isabelle Gradwell paced West Marshall (12-4, 6-3) with 10 points of her own, all of which came in the first half, while Kayla Cripps had six and Teresa Disney five.
Trojans head coach Fred Zeller said his girls started the game fine, but many times in this sport it’s more about how you finish than how you start.
“The name of the game is basketball and if you can’t put it in the basket you are going to struggle,” Zeller said. “Despite not doing that we were in the game until late. Both teams struggled to make baskets, and part of that was because of good defense and some of it was because we weren’t finishing shots that we have to finish.”
West Marshall didn’t have a single field goal drop in during the second half, with all three points coming from Disney at the free-throw line in the fourth quarter. Gradwell ended up fouling out of the game, but before then Zeller said the Spartans were doing everything they could to deny the talented senior scorer, so someone else needed to hit a shot.
“They did a good job of taking Isabelle out of the game, but we had to have some other people step up and make shots and they didn’t do that,” Zeller said. “They had some 3-pointers down the stretch that kind of gave them a little separation. Overall I thought our defense was adequate, we just couldn’t get any flow on offense after the first few minutes of the game.”
This game was important for both teams because of the implications for winning the NICL West crown. With the win, Grundy Center now remains tied with AGWSR with a 9-1 record in the division with one game left against the Cougars on Friday night. Lindeman said his girls can celebrate this win for a night, but come practice time on Wednesday it’s time to start focusing on the team that handed the Spartans their only loss of the year.
“The job’s not done, we are facing a very good AGWSR team that is hungry to get a conference championship as well,” Lindeman said. “That’s what it’s all about as you come down to the end of the year, and we are getting to host that game so that’s nice. I know they will come ready to play, we have to get ourselves ready to go right away.”
Had West Marshall come out on top, they would have pulled into a tie for second place in the division with Grundy Center and would still have a chance to at least tie for a share of the title. Though they didn’t get that done, the Trojans can still finish strong and take a good record into the state playoffs. Zeller said that’s the message to his girls heading into their final stretch of the season.
“We are going to come back with some confidence, we match up pretty well with the people that are left on our schedule, but if we are going to do anything down the line we have to come up with some offense that was way better than what we had in the second half tonight,” Zeller said.
Grundy Center and AGWSR play for a one-game lead in the NICL West on Friday in Grundy Center, starting at 6:15 p.m., while West Marshall next welcomes in Gladbrook-Reinbeck to State Center on Friday, also starting at 6:15 p.m.
Grundy Center 38, West Marshall 26
At Grundy Center
WEST MARSHALL (12-4, 6-3) — Kayla Cripps 3 0-1 6, Isabelle Gradwell 3 2-4 10, Karlyn Snider 1 0-1 3, Emma Meyer 0 0-2 0, Teresa Disney 1 3-4 5, Avril Sinning 0 0-0 0, Grace Girard 0 0-0 0, Renae Schaper 0 2-4 2. TOTALS 8 7-16 26.
GRUNDY CENTER (15-1, 9-1) — Hailey Wallis 2 4-5 10, Madison McMartin 2 0-1 6, Sydney Matthews 0 2-6 2, Kylie Willis 3 1-4 7, Brooke Flater 1 3-4 5, Reegan Zinkula 2 0-0 5, Sarah Lindeman 0 0-0 0, Cora Saak 1 0-0 3. TOTALS 11 10-20 38.
GRUNDY CTR. 3 13 5 17 — 38
3-Point Goals–WM 3 (Gradwell 2, Snider), GC 6 (Wallis 2, McMartin 2, Zinkula, Saak). Total Fouls–WM 19, GC 17. Fouled Out–Gradwell.