GRINNELL — It’s been a rough flu season, but Janel Burgess wasn’t in the mood for extra precautions Monday night.
Her 10th-ranked Montezuma girls’ basketball team knocked off No. 3 North Mahaska in a Class 1A regional final, 41-32. Dozens of hugs from just about everyone wearing blue followed for Burgess on the Grinnell High School court, as the first-year coach leads Monte to state for the first time since 1994, when she was a star for the school’s 6-on-6 team.
“I probably have a lot of germs, but I’ll take all those germs, for sure,” Burgess said.
Class 1A pairings will be released Wednesday night due to regional final postponements.
“There’s so many thoughts that you have going through your head,” Burgess said. “It doesn’t get much better than that, to take your home team back to the state tournament, do it with your family and just enjoy it.”
Montezuma (20-3) lost a pair of games to South Iowa Cedar League West Division champion North Mahaska (22-1) in the regular season, 51-45 and 63-46, but was far from intimidated here, even after failing to score for the first 3:53.
University of Iowa commit Shateah Wetering scored six straight points after Monte fell behind 5-0, and the Bravettes never trailed again.
“It was just our grit,” said Wetering, a 6-foot-1 sophomore. “We wanted it badly. All of our team coming together, it was a team effort. There was no individual. It was just great. We knew what we needed to do.”
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Wetering finished with 11 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks. Freshman Elise Boulton led the way with 16 points on 4-for-7 3-point shooting. Boulton’s corner trey late in the fourth on a feed from Wetering put Monte up 34-28, and North Mahaska couldn’t mount another run.
The teams had nearly identical shooting numbers — NM 13 of 35, Monte 13 of 34 — but the Warhawks were 1 for 9 from beyond the arc. Kassidi Steel paced North Mahaska, which starts five sophomores, with 11 points, nearly eight shy of her average.
Montezuma, which fell in regional finals each of the last two years, could have lost composure when the Warhawks quickly opened the second half by tying it at 17, or when a seven-point lead was whittled to 25-23 shortly after a third-quarter technical foul for having six players on the court.
But Wetering opened the fourth with consecutive putbacks and the Montezuma crowd was lively throughout the final eight minutes.
“We’ve talked all year about just staying in the moment, not one possession do you need to harbor,” Burgess said. You’ve got to be able to move on and I thought we did that really well tonight.”
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