STC stops West Marshall for state bid
Musgrave helps lead South Tama to first state berth since 2011
Throw out the Xs and Os. This game was about grit and determination, adversity and sacrifice.
South Tama County simply had a little bit more, and the Trojans draped in Columbia blue are getting their first trip to state in seven years as a result.
STC junior Jessica Musgrave piled up 26 points, 10 rebounds, seven steals and two blocked shots to lead those Trojans past West Marshall, 38-36, in a brutally physical Class 3A Region 7 final on Saturday night at the Marshalltown High School Roundhouse.
Musgrave made nine-straight field-goal attempts between the first and third quarters, keeping her team in the driver’s seat in spite of the carnage on the court. She scored nine of her team’s 10 points in the third quarter, including a rare 3-pointer, and helped STC play keepaway as best as it could down the stretch.
And when West Marshall’s last three desperation shots were off the mark, Musgrave, her teammates and first-year head coach Todd Dale erupted in celebration at center court.
“I’ve had this dream since I was in Blue Pride with these girls, and we’ve played together since we were young,” said Musgrave, “and now we’re going to step on the Wells … It’s so unreal. The tears were flying.”
South Tama will face top-ranked Crestwood (23-0) in the 3A state quarterfinals on Feb. 27 at 11:45 a.m. at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
Both Trojan teams were playing in the regional finals for the second time in the last three years. West Marshall suffered back-to-back heartbreaks after falling by three to PCM last February and by two to South Tama on Saturday night.
“It’s pretty disappointing, I blame myself a lot,” said West Marshall senior guard Isabelle Gradwell, who led her team with 14 points, 10 rebounds and four assists. “It’s pretty disappointing we could have been there, knowing that we could still be playing next week.”
Free-throw shooting played a pivotal role in the fourth quarter, which saw only one field goal — a Gradwell finger-roll layup that got West Marshall within three, 35-32, with 5:22 remaining.
STC settled for a 6-of-12 free-throw effort in the final period, but West Marshall was 5-for-12.
Still, after STC freshman Tylese Rosenberger went 1-for-2 at the charity stripe and Kayla Cripps matched it for West Marshall, it was a two-point game with 39 seconds left.
West Marshall managed to steal the ball back with about 15 seconds left, and three attempts at tying the score were off the mark. Gradwell’s floater bounced wide, but right into the open arms of Karlyn Snider. Her putback caromed off the rim to Renae Schaper, whose well-contested short shot was left wanting as well.
“We hung in there, we didn’t roll over, we came back and had a chance at the end,” said West Marshall head coach Fred Zeller. “Three shots, we had our chances, but we kind of dug a hole for ourselves.”
Neither team led by more than five points in a game in which West Marshall (19-5) lost sophomore center Teresa Disney to an ankle injury in the first two minutes. Yet the Trojans donning black and gold had ample opportunity to get to their first state tournament since 2012.
Her absence opened things up inside for Musgrave, who racked up five offensive rebounds and powered STC early with putback buckets from close range.
“Getting a player like Jessica and all the other girls around her is like getting a limosuine because it’s just awesome,” said Dale. “They may not score a lot of points but they do a lot of good stuff out there. Offensively, defensively, it’s just a great group around her.”
Taylor Ray’s long 2-pointer midway through the first quarter was the only South Tama field goal scored by somebody other than Musgrave. Yet the rest of the Trojans contributed 13 points at the free-throw line, including Sadie Smith, who piled up eight rebounds for STC.
“She didn’t do anything we hadn’t talked about,” Zeller said of Musgrave, who ranks fourth in 3A in scoring average (22 points per game). “She was just able to get to the basket. It seemed like she was always up on the boards. … Basically we didn’t slow her up as much as we had to. She’s a fine player, no doubt about that.”
Whether West Marshall chose to defend out of the 2-3 zone or in a man-to-man, Musgrave got the shots her opponents couldn’t afford to allow. And with Musgrave guarding Gradwell, STC’s defense held West Marshall to its second-lowest output of the season.
“We put Jess on her and let her take it away,” said Dale. “She did an awesome job defensively there. We wanted to be on [Gradwell] every time she got the ball, and we were there. That’s an awesome accomplishment for our defense.”
South Tama earned its lowest-scoring win of the season, too, in spite of West Marshall’s sturdy defensive effort — especially considering Disney’s absence for most of the game.
“It’s something you never practice, without her in the middle of the defense or rebounding,” said Zeller. “It was definitely big and we’ll always think if she hadn’t sprained her ankle we’d still be playing.
“We had a good year and a bad break.”
Aside from Musgrave, nobody scored more than three points (Rosenberger) for the STC Trojans. Zoee Buffalo pulled down four rebounds coming off the bench, while Ray tallied three assists.
For West Marshall, Snider contributed eight points and five steals, while Cripps had six points and six boards while battling foul trouble.
“It was a rough contact sport game,” said Dale. “Everybody was on the floor and the ball was loose, it looked like a dogpile. It was just a physical game. We expected that coming in, we told them they had to be physical if they wanted to win and we played our most physical ballgame of the year.”
South Tama County 38, West Marshall 36
WEST MARSHALL (19-5) — Kayla Cripps 2 2-6 6, Isabelle Gradwell 3 7-7 14, Karlyn Snider 2 2-5 8, Emma Meyer 1 0-1 2, Teresa Disney 0 0-0 0, Avril Sinning 1 0-0 2, Grace Girard 1 0-1 2, Renae Schaper 1 0-0 2. TOTALS 11 11-20 36.
SOUTH TAMA (15-9) — Sadie Smith 0 2-6 2, Jaelin Berger 0 2-2 2, Jessica Musgrave 10 5-8 26, Tylese Rosenberger 0 3-6 3, Madison Rohach 0 0-0 0, Carissa Musgrave 0 0-0 0, Makayla Backen 0 2-2 2, Taylor Ray 1 0-0 2, Zoee Buffalo 0 1-2 1. TOTALS 11 15-26 38.
W. MARSHALL 10 11 8 7 — 36
SOUTH TAMA 11 11 10 6 — 38
3-Point Goals–WM 3 (Snyder 2, Gradwell), STC 1 (J.Musgrave). Total Fouls–WM 20, STC 22. Fouled Out–Berger.
Iowa High School Girls’ State Basketball Tournament
At Wells Fargo Arena, Des Moines
Tuesday, Feb. 27
Crestwood (23-0) vs. South Tama (15-9), 11:45 a.m.
Davenport Assumption (16-8) vs. North Polk (21-3), 1:30 p.m.
Clear Lake (22-2) vs. Monticello (19-5), 3:15 p.m.
Sioux Center (22-2) vs. Red Oak (21-2), 5 p.m.