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Underdogs to the Dogs

Trojans face uphill battle against second-seeded Stormin’ Pointers

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON - The West Marshall girls basketball team will be making the school’s 10th state tournament appearance this week at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. Pictured are: (from left) Delaney Nichols, Sadie Clark, Sarah Pierce, Abby Green, Eliza Girard, Teresa Disney, Karlyn Snider, Kayla Cripps, Avril Sinning, Grace Girard, Renae Schaper, Avery Randall, Jaiden Hart, Grace de Neui and Kate Breja.

STATE CENTER — If the West Marshall girls basketball team wants to get past the first round of the Iowa High School Girls Basketball Tournament, it will have to earn its way through by beating a loaded Center Point-Urbana team in their Class 3A matchup at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Wells Fargo Arena.

The Stormin’ Pointers enter the state tournament seeded second and they boast the No. 2 offense in 3A as well as the No. 8 defense, while their scoring differential of 28.2 points per game is the highest in the class.

Trojan head coach Fred Zeller said there’s no way around it, Center Point-Urbana (21-2) is a tough opponent for the first round.

“They have a lot of size, they are pretty athletic, they are very good defenders and very aggressive,” Zeller said. “They have a lot of weapons, inside, outside, they get a lot of points off of their defense too. They press, either full court or three-quarter court and they’ve forced a lot of turnovers I’m sure all year. They’re kind of a high-scoring team that we are going to have to work hard to slow down a little bit.”

The Stormin’ Pointers are led by a three-headed monster in the front court, with 5-foot-10 senior Callyn Fox leading the team by averaging 14.1 points per game, followed by 5-11 junior Adrianna Katcher with a 10.2 average and 5-11 freshman Ryley Goebel with a 9.5 average.

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West Marshall junior Teresa Disney, who will be tasked with defending the Stormin’ Pointer trio along with senior Grace Girard and junior Renae Schaper, said Fox is particularly dangerous from the midrange.

“She likes to shoot at the elbow a lot and she can get those in, we have to keep an eye on her,” Disney said.

Zeller said he has faith in his front-court rotation, but Disney, Girard and Schaper are going to have their work cut out for them.

“They have a little more depth I’d say, it remains to be seen if we can play our three post people and not wear them out, but we are athletic also, just a little smaller,” he said. “That will be a challenge.”

While Fox, Katcher and Goebel are putting up an average of nearly 35 points per game combined, they do have a weakness: rebounding. Goebel is the top rebounder of the group with an average of 5.8 boards per game and Katcher clocks in at 5.4, while Fox is down at 4.2.

As a team, the Stormin’ Pointers have the lowest rebound average in the 3A field at 28.5, meanwhile West Marshall has the top rebounding average at 33.6.

Disney is second in the 3A field individually at 8.0 rebounds per game, while Girard is fourth with 7.7 boards.

Girard has been cleaning up the glass especially well in the postseason, as she had 37 total rebounds in the three regional games, including a career-high 19 in the regional semifinal against Benton Community. She said that rebounding advantage could be a way to chop down the offensive juggernaut that is CPU.

“That’s something Teresa and I have been talking about, we want to make sure that we control the boards on this game,” Girard said. “We don’t always score much, but if we can control the boards and get the ball on offense as much as possible, that’s going to turn into points. That’s definitely something we are focusing on.”

Zeller agreed that rebounds will be key, but the Stormin’ Pointers’ lack of rebounding is partly by design.

“We’d like to think we can rebound with them, but they also trap the rebounds and do a great job of getting after it after giving up a rebound,” he said. “We are going to have to get rid of the ball or take care of it because they are very aggressive and contest everything. Their defense contests passes, they trap, they trap rebounds, they are pretty good one-on-one defenders too.”

Girard said she knows when she gets a rebound the defense will be on her almost immediately, so she’s trying to prepare mentally for that situation.

“I am going to try to not panic, because that’s something I did a little in the regional final game,” she said. “It was just nerves, our third time being there, so definitely it’s just not panicking and trying to stay confident and under control. Not making stupid passes or trying to do things that we know we can’t or shouldn’t do against a team like this.”

While West Marshall (14-7) doesn’t possess as much of a high-scoring offensive attack as Center Point-Urbana, the Trojans do match the Stormin’ Pointers on the other side of the floor.

West Marshall comes into state ranked fifth in 3A in points allowed at 743, and its 35.3 average points surrendered is third in the tournament field.

“Our defense has been pretty consistent, I don’t know how we’re going to match up with CPU, but defense has kind of kept us in games all year,” Zeller said. “We’re not a pressure defensive team as far as strict man-to-man or trapping that much, but we are also I think a pretty disciplined defense in our zone and haven’t given up a lot of easy baskets, and we hope that’s true when we get down there.”

Part of the team’s defensive prowess comes from rebounding, the other part is from its ability to get into passing lanes. The Trojans are No. 6 in the class in steals and No. 3 in the 3A field, behind only Waukon and CPU.

Senior Kayla Cripps is the team’s leading scorer at 12.6 points per game, and she leads the team in steals with 65, good enough four fourth among the 3A tournament field.

“We need every ball to win, every ball counts,” Cripps said of her defensive focus.

Cripps isn’t the only master thief sitting on the Trojans roster. Karlyn Snider is just behind Cripps with 64 steals this year, and Disney has 61 takeaways to her name. Cripps, Snider and Disney are fourth, fifth and sixth in steals in the tournament field respectively, and only Waukon matches West Marshall with three girls in the top 10.

Cripps, Snider and Avril Sinning make up a back court for the Trojans that has taken on the brunt of scoring for most of the season, and they have locked down some prolific shooters along the way, including holding Iowa Falls-Alden to just 8-for-37 from the 3-point line in the regional final after the Cadets were tied for third in 3-point makes in the class this year.

Snider is second on the team in scoring with 9.3 points per game, and Sinning has developed into a sniper from behind the arc with a team-high 32 threes on the year.

Zeller said if those three can get hot specifically behind the 3-point line at The Well on Tuesday, they could very well be moving on to the next round.

“We’d like to think we are going to get some three point shots down there, but you never know how that’s going to go,” he said. “Our 3-point shooting has been pretty inconsistent, we have three kids that can shoot the three but we just haven’t put it all together. Our shooting percent from three is something like 20 percent and we haven’t been a good free-throwing team, but you just have to do it one time down there to get to the next game and we hope that maybe we’re on our game that day on all cylinders.”

Even if all the dominoes fall into place, Zeller said it will still be a dogfight for who moves on, but he would rather head into a game like that as the team that’s being counted out.

“I’d like to think the pressure is on them because they are seeded No. 2 and we’re seventh, so they are expecting to win but sometimes being an underdog has its advantage,” he said. “I think that was shown in the regional final against a very good Iowa Falls-Alden team that just didn’t have it that night, we stepped it up and it was one of those things that bounced our way. We are excited just to be where we are.”

Though the stats might not look in their favor, Snider said she doesn’t pay any attention to talk of her team not being the favorite.

“I think we can beat them actually because I don’t think they are as fast as we are, and I don’t think they can see the floor quite as well as we can,” she said with confidence.

Cripps said as long as the girls control themselves on the court, they should have a chance to pull off the upset.

“We’re going to try to play our hardest and not make mistakes, not make turnovers,” she said. “Do what we can do.”

West Marshall and Center Point-Urbana will meet in the opening round of the Class 3A Iowa High School Girls Basketball Tournament at 10 a.m. on Tuesday at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.

Iowa High School Girls State Basketball Tournament

At Wells Fargo Arena, Des Moines

CLASS 5A

Quarterfinals

Monday, Feb. 25

No. 1 Johnston (21-2) vs. No. 8 Urbandale (13-9), 10 a.m.

No. 4 Iowa City High (19-2) vs. No. 5 West Des Moines Valley (17-5), 11:45 a.m.

No. 2 Waukee (18-4) vs. No. 7 Dowling Catholic (16-7), 1:30 p.m.

No. 3 Southeast Polk (19-3) vs. No. 6 Ankeny Centennial (15-7), 3:15 p.m.

CLASS 3A

Quarterfinals

Monday, Feb. 25

No. 1 North Polk (21-2) vs. No. 8 Estherville-Lincoln Central (14-10), 5 p.m.

No. 4 Crestwood (15-5) vs. No. 5 Waukon (18-3), 6:45 p.m.

No. 3 Des Moines Christian (22-2) vs. No. 6 Roland-Story (19-5), 8:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Feb. 26

No. 2 Center Point-Urbana vs. No. 7 West Marshall (14-7), 10 a.m.

CLASS 4A

Tuesday, Feb. 26

No. 1 Marion (21-1) vs. No. 8 Cedar Rapids Xavier (14-8), 11:45 a.m.

No. 4 Mason City (15-8) vs. No. 5 Waverly-Shell Rock (20-2), 1:30 p.m.

No. 2 North Scott (19-3) vs. No. 7 Denison-Schleswig (20-2), 3:15 p.m.

No. 3 Grinnell (19-2) vs. No. 6 Sioux City Bishop Heelan (18-5), 5 p.m.

CLASS 2A

Quarterfinals

Tuesday, Feb. 26

No. 1 Grundy Center (22-0) vs. No. 8 Unity Christian (19-5), 6:45 p.m.

No. 4 Cascade (22-1) vs. No. 5 Dike-New Hartford (20-2), 8:30 p.m.

Wednesday, Feb. 27

No. 2 Central Decatur (22-0) vs. No. 7 Aplington-Parkersburg (23-2), 10 a.m.

No. 3 Treynor (23-1) vs. No. 6 North Linn (21-1), 11:45 a.m.

CLASS 1A

Quarterfinals

Wednesday, Feb. 27

No. 1 Newell-Fonda (24-0) vs. No. 8 Springville (16-9), 1:30 p.m.

No. 4 Clarksville (20-2) vs. No. 5 Marquette Catholic (21-2), 3:15 p.m.

No. 2 West Hancock (23-1) vs. No. 7 North Mahaska (21-2), 5 p.m.

No. 3 Montezuma (21-2) vs. No. 6 CAM, Anita (21-2), 6:45 p.m.

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