Olivia Donlea isn’t a big talker.
“She doesn’t say two words unless you initiate it,” East Buchanan girls’ basketball coach Nathan Reck said.
But it was Donlea, a senior guard, who spoke up in a team meeting when the Buccaneers were spinning sideways somewhat.
The message, according to Reck:
“She expressed that she had two goals; one was to beat Maquoketa Valley, and we did that,” Reck said. “The other was to get to the state tournament.”
Donlea’s goal, and a historic moment for the Buccaneers, is in sight.
East Buchanan (17-7) faces fourth-ranked Algona Garrigan (22-1) in a Class 1A regional final at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Hampton. An upset victory would vault the Bucs to the state tournament — next week at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines — for the first time in school history.
In fact, this is East Buchanan’s first regional final since 2000.
“Before I saw the pairings, there were two teams I really wanted to avoid,” Reck said. “One was (top-ranked) Newell-Fonda. The other was Garrigan. Now, I don’t care who we play, because I know that when we work together, we’re dangerous.”
Donlea, along with fellow seniors Erica Hoffman and Nicole Pettinger, were the key pieces in moving East Buchanan’s program forward. In 2015-16, the year before their arrival into high school (and also the year before Reck’s hiring), the Bucs were 0-22.
Then came steady improvement. And though there were some ups and downs this season, they’ve arrived to the doorstep of history.
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In other 1A regional finals Wednesday, No. 5 Montezuma (22-1) meets No. 10 Springville (20-4) at Iowa City West and No. 13 Elkader Central (21-3) faces No. 7 Saint Ansgar (20-2) at New Hampton.
In 2A, No. 1 Cascade (24-0) battles Iowa City Regina (16-7) at Linn-Mar, No. 3 North Linn (21-2) tangles with Van Meter (15-8) at Marshalltown and No. 6 West Branch (20-3) faces No. 9 Van Buren County (21-3) at Washington, Iowa.
“We’re excited to be in this position,” West Branch Coach Jarod Tylee said. “We feel we’re playing our best basketball at the right time. It starts with our press and our defense, and we’ll have to find ways to disrupt Van Buren.”
The Bears must contend with 6-foot-3 Taryn Scheuermann, the state’s all-time career leader in blocked shots.
“We want to do some different things to make her defend us,” Tylee said. “She likes to hang around the paint, and we want to get her out of there.”
Tuesday's Class 2A regional finals
No. 1 Cascade (24-0) vs. Iowa City Regina (16-7)
Time and place: 7 p.m., at Linn-Mar
Overview: Cascade has been a fixture at Wells Fargo Arena lately, advancing six of the past seven seasons with a 2A championship in 2018. Three current seniors — Nicole McDermott, Jordan Simon and Abby Welter — were starters on that title team. The Cougars are the only remaining unbeaten in 2A and one of four statewide. They are tops in 2A in scoring defense at 30.2 points allowed per game. McDermott leads the team in scoring (15.8 points per game), as well as assists (4.0) and steals (3.5). Cascade handled Regina, 49-19, Jan. 7. Senior Sam Greving leads the Regals at 12.5 points per game, and junior Annie Gahan adds 11.5. Regina has been at state five times since 2013.
BC Moore computer projection: Cascade by 29
No. 6 West Branch (20-3) vs. No. 9 Van Buren County (21-3)
Time and place: 7 p.m., at Washington, Iowa
Overview: This region began with three top-10 teams, and Van Buren County eliminated No. 7 Mediapolis in impressive fashion, 43-23, in the regional semifinals. West Branch claimed its first league title since 2013, winning the River Valley Conference South Division behind junior Sasha Koenig (15.5 points, 5.6 assists, 3.7 steals per game), a Bradley commit. Van Buren has its own future Missouri Valley Conference player in senior post Taryn Scheuermann, the state’s all-time leader in career blocked shots. A UNI signee, Scheuermann posts 20.0 points, 8.1 rebounds and 5.9 blocks per contest. West Branch is after its third state berth; its most recent was in 2016.
BC Moore computer projection: Even
No. 3 North Linn (21-2) vs. Van Meter (15-8)
Time and place: 7 p.m., at Marshalltown
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Overview: North Linn has posted its 10th consecutive 20-win season, and chases its fifth state berth in seven seasons. The Lynx’s 85-42 regional-semifinal drubbing of Pella Christian marked the 300th career win for Coach Brian Wheatley. The Lynx average a robust 66.7 points per game, with Grace Flanagan leading the way with 18.3 points per game. Flanagan shoots 48.6 percent from 3-point range. Junior post Ellie Ware adds 11.6 points and 6.5 rebounds per contest. Van Meter hovered a bit above the .500 mark most of the season, then closed with five wins in its last six games. Clair Lauterbach paces the Bulldogs at 16.7 points per game.
BC Moore computer projection: North Linn by 27
Tuesday's Class 1A regional finals
East Buchanan (17-7) vs. No. 4 Algona Garrigan (22-1)
Time and place: 7 p.m., at Hampton
Overview: East Buchanan has reached the regional-final round for the first time in 20 years, and one more win sends the Buccaneers to state for the first time in school history. It won’t be easy, though. They face a potent Garrigan squad that averages 71.5 points per game. The Golden Bears split a pair of one-point decisions with 2A No. 2 West Hancock. What’s more, Garrigan’s top two scorers — 6-foot-3 Audi Crooks (23.0 ppg) and Molly Joyce (18.3) — are freshmen. East Buchanan counters with a veteran lineup; seniors Erica Hoffman (12.0 ppg), Nicole Pettinger (11.6) and Olivia Donlea (8.6) joined a program that was coming off an 0-22 season in 2015-16. The Bucs have allowed 20.6 ppg in their last five games.
BC Moore computer projection: Algona Garrigan by 21
No. 13 Elkader Central (21-3) vs. No. 7 Saint Ansgar (20-2)
Time and place: 7 p.m., at New Hampton
Overview: The last time Elkader Central reached the state tournament, the year was 1977, the game was six-on-six and the first-round opponent was Ankeny. The Warriors got to this point by rallying past Turkey Valley, 43-36, in the regional semifinals, hitting 12 straight free throws in the final 3:11. They shoot only 33.6 percent from the field, but 68.3 percent from the line. Senior Hannah Erickson, a Wisconsin-Platteville recruit, averages 16.2 points and 3.6 assists per game. Saint Ansgar edged Clarksville, 67-64, in the regional semifinals. Three Saints average in double figures, led by Hali Anderson’s 16.6-point rate, and all are juniors.
BC Moore computer projection: Saint Ansgar by 4
No. 5 Montezuma (22-1) vs. No. 10 Springville (20-4)
Time and place: 7 p.m., at Iowa City West
Overview: Springville is looking to complete a postseason trifecta against South Iowa Cedar League teams, and a sweep in the three Iowa City Community School District gymnasiums. A win also would send the Orioles to the state tournament for the sixth consecutive year (they won championships in 2016, 2017 and 2018). The Orioles’ starting lineup consists of three sophomores and two freshmen. Sophs Lauren Wilson and Morgan Nachazel average 16.8 and 14.0 points per game. Montezuma goes after its third straight state berth; the Bravettes were semifinalists last year. Iowa signee Shateah Wetering shoots 59 percent from the floor and averages 23.4 points per game. Montezuma’s 209 3-pointers is tops in 1A.
BC Moore computer projection: Montezuma by 11
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