Spartans reverse course to state

One year after .500 finish, Grundy Center girls basketball gets back to the Well

T-R PHOTO BY JAKE RYDER - Grundy Center senior guard Laney Dole leaps in celebration upon receiving the Class 2A state basketball qualifier banner following Wednesday’s Region 8 championship game at Ballard High School in Huxley. The ninth-ranked Spartans defeated the eighth-ranked Nodaway Valley Wolverines 55-48 to return to state for the first time since 2021.

HUXLEY — Wednesday was an improbable moment for the Grundy Center girls basketball team.

A .500 team last season, the Spartans extended an impressive comeback season with a 55-48 triumph over Nodaway Valley in the Class 2A Region 8 championship to return to state for the first time since 2021.

The Spartan girls, with several seniors coming in energized from a successful volleyball season as state semifinalists, knew they could do better than their 11-11 finish last season.

But 21-2, ranked ninth in the state and now the seventh seed at next week’s Class 2A state tournament?

“Unbelievable, really unbelievable,” Grundy Center head coach Matt Lindeman said. “It’s all them. They’ve done it night in and night out. The way they treat each other, the way they respect each other shows in how they play.”

T-R PHOTO BY JAKE RYDER - Grundy Center senior Lucy Lebo carries the team’s new state basketball qualifier banner following Wednesday’s 55-48 Spartan victory over Nodaway Valley at Ballard High School in Huxley.

Grundy Center will play Panorama (23-1) at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 28, at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.

“We know going into this that we have nothing to lose,” Grundy Center senior Carlie Willis said. “It’s just really special that we’ll get to be there.”

Eighth-ranked Nodaway Valley had an impressive opening statement, flustering Grundy Center with pressure defense and converting on the other end for a quick 6-0 lead less than two minutes in.

After a timeout, the Spartans eventually settled in for a 13-3 run, and were within 15-13 at the first-quarter horn.

“We had an awakening after they scored those first six points,” Willis said. “We talked about it in the time out that we needed to show up, and I think we really turned it around.”

T-R PHOTO BY JAKE RYDER - Grundy Center sophomore Karlee Lynch, center, shoots between Nodaway Valley defenders Mylee Comstock (22) and Bella Hogan (45) during the first half of Wednesday’s regional final in Huxley. Lynch scored a team-high 17 points in the Spartans’ 55-48 win.

A big part of Grundy Center’s first-half turnaround was sophomore guard Karlee Lynch coming off the bench to give the Spartan offense a shot in the arm. Lynch scored 11 points in the first half, including a buzzer-beating three-pointer that pushed the Spartans ahead 27-21 at the break.

“I just wanted to play for the seniors because I think they really make this team,” Lynch said. “Without the seniors, we wouldn’t be here today. I was nervous, obviously, but I knew this could be our last game, so I was just going to play as hard as I could.”

Lynch finished with a team-leading 17 points, with Willis adding 16 and Laney Dole chipping in eight points.

“She’s hit her stride,” Lindeman said. “After Christmas she’s been playing much better, does a great job of rebounding defensively, and her offensive game is coming along, she’s just become so much more competent and brings that extra piece that you don’t necessarily see because of her size — she plays much bigger than her size.”

The teams traded baskets in the third period. In the fourth, Grundy never fell behind but were pressured again and again by the Wolverines.

The closest margin was 46-44 after a Bella Hogan basket as she was fouled but the Nodaway Valley senior couldn’t convert the extra free throw and Lynch made two free throws on the other end.

The Spartans came up with the necessary stops to eventually force Nodaway Valley to put Grundy Center on the line, and the Spartans delivered once again with Maddy Hendershot hitting two big free throws to answer a steal and score by Izzy Eisbach and the Wolverines getting no closer than five the rest of the way.

Lindsay Davis and Eisbach came into the game averaging 25.1 and 19.7 points per game for the Wolverines, respectively, and left the Ballard gym with 12 and 8 against Grundy Center’s stout defense.

“We had to man up on them to make others beat us,” Willis said. “We did a really good job of shutting them down, and then we just had to make sure that we did all the little things like boxing out and going after loose balls.”

Willis was frank in her assessment of Grundy Center’s chances at going to state when practice started in November.

“To be honest, no, it didn’t seem possible,” Willis said. “But after the game against North Mahaska when they were ranked, even in a loss, that really motivated us and showed how we could battle against some of the top teams. And from that moment on, we just got a lot of confidence and got better.”

Banner season continues in Grundy Center.

“This has been our dream,” Lynch said. “We all work so well together and it’s just so exciting.”

No. 9 Grundy Center 55, No. 8 Nodaway Valley 48

GRUNDY CENTER (21-2) — Lucy Lebo 1 1-2 4, Kali Aldrich 0 0-0 0, Ellery Luhring 2 1-2 5, Laney Dole 3 0-0 8, Carlie Willis 6 4-8 16, Maddy Hendershot 1 2-2 5, Karlee Lynch 4 7-8 17, Ava Mundt 0 0-0 0. TOTALS 17 15-22 55 55.

NODAWAY VALLEY (20-4) — Annika Nelson 2 1-2 6, Izzy Eisbach 4 0-0 8, Lindsey Davis 5 1-2 12, Bella Hogan 4 1-2 10, Jorja Holliday 2 1-2 6, Maddie Weston 2 0-0 6, Olivia Laughery 0 0-0 0, Mylee Comstock 0 0-0 0. TOTALS 19 4-8 48.

GRUNDY CTR. 13 14 14 14 — 55

NODAWAY VAL. 15 6 13 14 — 48

3-Point Goals–Grundy Center 6 (Dole 2, Lynch 2, Lebo, Hendershot), Nodaway Valley 6 (Weston 2, Nelson, Davis, Hogan, Holliday). Team Fouls–Grundy Center 14, Nodaway Valley 15. Fouled Out–none.


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