Prep Basketball

For No. 1, North Linn faces a tricky regional-final test

Girls' basketball state tournament field will take shape in 1A and 2A Monday

North Linn’s Ashley Tull (51) scores against Springville on Dec. 5. Tull is shooting over 70 percent this season, hitting 14 of 15 shots in a 32-point effort in the regional semifinals. The top-ranked Lynx face No. 9 Dike-New Hartford in a 2A regional final Monday at Jesup. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
North Linn’s Ashley Tull (51) scores against Springville on Dec. 5. Tull is shooting over 70 percent this season, hitting 14 of 15 shots in a 32-point effort in the regional semifinals. The top-ranked Lynx face No. 9 Dike-New Hartford in a 2A regional final Monday at Jesup. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

North Linn has the No. 1-ranked girls’ basketball team in Class 2A, but isn’t getting No. 1 treatment for its regional final.

In terms of rankings, The Lynx (23-0) face the toughest hurdle of all the 2A favorites. They’ll face No. 9 Dike-New Hartford (22-2) for a state-tournament berth at 7 p.m. Monday at Jesup.

So much for “protection.”

“They’re a really good team,” Lynx Coach Brian Wheatley said of the Wolverines. “The big thing is, those kids up there know how to win.”

Wheatley was referring to DNH’s vast volleyball success. This isn’t volleyball, but those are the same kids.

Regional finals are statewide Monday in 1A and 2A, Tuesday in 4A and 5A. The state field was assembled Saturday in 3A.

In other 2A games Monday involving area teams, No. 6 Cascade (21-3) meets No. 12 Bellevue (19-5) at Dubuque Senior, and No. 7 Iowa City Regina (20-4) faces Danville (20-4) at Riverside.

Two-time defending state champion Springville leads the local 1A contingent. The top-rated Orioles (20-3) tangle with No. 14 Janesville (21-2) at LaPorte City. Also, No. 9 Lansing Kee (21-1) meets No. 6 West Hancock (21-2) at New Hampton and No. 10 Montezuma (19-3) battles No. 3 North Mahaska (22-0) at Grinnell.

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North Linn is coming off a 76-51 regional-semifinal win over Jesup on Friday. The Lynx got out to a 26-6 first-quarter lead, then coasted home from there.

“We were hitting on all cylinders there for a while,” Wheatley said. “Then we got in foul trouble and we had an injury scare with Anna LeGrand (a knee, she’s OK), and that kind of took the wind out of our sails for a while.”

Ashley Tull never cooled off, though, hitting 14 of 15 shots in a 32-point outing. That performance pushed Tull’s season field-goal rate to 70.7 percent.

The Cascade-Bellevue and Montezuma-North Mahaska matchups pit divisional rivals against each other.

Cascade and Bellevue split regular-season contests, and the Cougars’ defeat at Bellevue was their lone blemish in the rugged River Valley Conference.

“They’re an outstanding team,” Cascade Coach Mike Sconsa said of the Comets. “They’re relentless on the offensive boards.”

Cascade reloaded nicely after losing three starters to graduation after last year’s run to the state semifinals.

“A lot of kids adjusted well to their new roles,” Sconsa said. “We didn’t defend well early in the season. We were kind of lazy on defense and on the boards. I challenged them to get better, and they responded.”

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Regina and Springville are chasing their fourth consecutive state berths. Springville has been to the 1A finals each of the past three years.

Monday's Class 2A regional finals

No. 1 NORTH LINN (23-0) vs. No. 9 DIKE-NEW HARTFORD (22-2)

Site and time: 7 p.m., at Jesup

Overview: Fortunately for North Linn, this is basketball rather than volleyball, though many of Dike-New Hartford’s players were part of their state-title run last fall. North Linn has been ranked No. 1 all winter, and the Lynx’s dominance is obvious in all facets; they lead 2A in offense (71.6 ppg) and defense (28.4). Ashley Tull leads the team at 16.0 points and 7.2 rebounds, and is coming off a 32-point regional-semifinal beauty against Jesup, in which she converted 14 of 15 shots. Grace Flanagan and Abby Flanagan average 13.3 and 10.1 points per game, respectively, and both supply lots of assists and steals. DNH rides a 14-game winning streak, including a 52-45 triumph over Central Springs in the previous round. The Wolverines have three double-digit scorers, all sophomores, led by Ellie Foster at 13.6 ppg.

BC Moore computer projection: North Linn by 16.

No. 6 CASCADE (21-3) vs. No. 12 BELLEVUE (19-5)

Site and time: 7 p.m., at Dubuque Senior

Overview: These River Valley Conference North Division rivals split games during the regular season. Cascade prevailed at home, 61-50, Dec. 5, then the Comets turned the tables with a 46-43 triumph at Bellevue on Jan. 16. That was the Cougars’ lone loss in RVC play all season and their only loss in their final 14 games. Cascade graduated three starters from its state-semifinal team from a year ago, but the two key returners — sophomore Nicole McDermott and senior Abbie Ruggeberg — average 13.5 and 12.5 points per game, respectively. The Cougars have successfully navigated the state’s toughest schedule among 2A teams, according to the BC Moore computer. Camryn Reeg leads Bellevue at 12.5 points per game, while Rebecca Schroeder grabs 11.4 rebounds per game.

BC Moore computer projection: Cascade by 8.

No. 7 IOWA CITY REGINA (20-4) vs. DANVILLE (20-4)

Site and time: 7 p.m., at Riverside

Overview: Like North Linn and Cascade above, Regina has been one of the state’s most consistent winners. The Regals are heavily favored to secure their fourth consecutive state trip, and their fifth voyage in the last six years. It was a little rocky before Christmas, and the Regals took a 6-3 record into the break. But they took off when Mary Crompton returned from a knee injury, rattling off 14 wins in the last 15 games (and the lone loss was against 5A No. 1 Iowa City High). An Illinois State signee, Crompton averages 18.1 points per game, and Alex Wiese adds 15.5 points and 10.5 rebounds per contest. Danville has never been to the state tournament, but knocked off Mediapolis, 63-60, in the regional semifinals. Junior Alyssa Pfadenhauer leads the Bears at 11.8 ppg.

BC Moore computer projection: Regina by 26.

Monday's Class 1A regional finals

No. 9 LANSING KEE (21-1) vs. No. 6 WEST HANCOCK (21-2)

Site and time: 7 p.m., at New Hampton

Overview: Kee High seeks to return to the state tournament after making its debut in 2016. The current cast of Hawks have enjoyed enormous success on the softball diamond, winning back-to-back 1A state titles in 2016 and 2017. Most of those girls also play basketball, including Ashley Schwartzhoff (11.3 points per game), Makayla Wallaser (10.5) and Kendra Cooper (10.3). The Hawks’ lone loss came to 3A No. 1 Crestwood, 56-34, Dec. 7, but nobody in Iowa has played the Cadets closer. Since that defeat, Kee has won 18 straight games, including a 50-37 triumph over two-time state runner-up Turkey Valley in a regional semifinal. West Hancock made state appearances in 2011 and 2012. At 20.0 points per game, West Hancock’s Rachel Leerar is the leading scorer in the state among freshmen.

BC Moore computer projection: West Hancock by 6.

No. 1 SPRINGVILLE (20-3) vs. No. 14 JANESVILLE (21-2)

Site and time: 7 p.m., at LaPorte City

Overview: At some point in the next two weeks, a remarkable chapter is going to come to an end. A Springville senior class that features familiar names like Rylee Menster, Mikayla Nachazel, Alyssa Jaeger and Madi Wagaman shoots for its fourth consecutive state tournament; the Orioles were runners-up in 2015, champions in 2016 and 2017. They have a new pilot now; Christina Zaruba succeeded Nate Sanderson after the latter left to take the Linn-Mar job. Menster averages 17.3 points per game, Nachazel 16.4. Both will play Division-II ball next year at Minnesota State-Mankato. Two of the Orioles’ losses came to 2A No. 1 North Linn. Janesville was a state qualifier in 2014 and 2017, and is led by Briana Bruce-Baker at 12.3 ppg. Springville has allowed 40 points (total) in its two postseason wins, Janesville 35.

BC Moore computer projection: Springville by 26.

No. 10 MONTEZUMA (19-3) vs. No. 3 NORTH MAHASKA (22-0)

Site and time: 7 p.m., at Grinnell

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Overview: This could be the gem of Monday’s 1A games. North Mahaska won both regular-season games between the South Iowa Cedar League rivals by verdicts of 51-45 and 63-46 on its way to an unbeaten regular season. The Warhawks are sophomore-dominated; their top six scorers are 10th-graders, led by Kassidi Steel (18.7 points per game). Montezuma has its own sophomore star; Shateah Wetering (13.8 points, 7.1 rebounds per game) gave an oral commitment to the University of Iowa earlier this winter. The Bravettes are in their third straight regional final; they fell to eventual 1A champion Springville in 2016 and to Cascade last year in a 2A game. North Mahaska’s regional-semifinal win was surprisingly close, 49-44 over an Iowa Mennonite team that won five games.

BC Moore computer projection: North Mahaska by 5.

l Comments: (319) 368-8857; jeff.linder@thegazette.com

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