DES MOINES - These Estherville Lincoln Central seniors just weren't ready to call it a season.
After falling behind in the first quarter, the third-ranked Midgets picked up the defense and offense in the second quarter to pull ahead of second-ranked MOC-Floyd Valley.
The Midgets led by as many as 10 points in the fourth quarter when the Dutch made a late rally to get within a point. ELC responded by 8-of-10 free throws in the final 2:24 to preserve a 49-46 victory on Thursday.
Estherville Lincoln Central’s Casey Sievert (24) and Emily Kirchner (20) surround MOC-Floyd Valley’s Alexis Conaway on the drive to the basket in Thursday’s Class 3A Semifinal in Des Moines. The Midgets edged the Dutch 49-46 to advance to tonight’s state championship game against top-ranked Davenport Assumption. Game time is 8 p.m.
Photo by StevePope.com
"This is my third season of coaching varsity basketball, but it was the first time I was nervous on the bench," said ELC coach Tony Klein, who is in his first season heading the Midgets.
The win also avenges one of the Midgets' three losses on the season.
The Midgets (23-3) will take on top-ranked Davenport Assumption (24-2) at 8 p.m. tonight in Wells Fargo Arena. The Knights romped past fourth-ranked Cascade 63-26 in the other 3A semifinal.
ELC is back in a title game for the second time in three years after losing the 2A championship game to Odebolt-Arthur/Battle Creek-Ida Grove in 2011.
Emily Kirchner led the Midgets with 18 points including 12-of-12 from the free throw line. The 5-8 senior forwardis a 70 percent free throw shooter on the season.
"That was an exciting game, they're a great team and it was hard and competitive, just like we wanted," said Kirchner. "We're happy we came away with it and we're going to be ready to go tomorrow."
Kirchner also led the rebounding for ELC with eight boards.
"What a phenomenal game she had," said Klein. "There are a few plays when she just got hacked and she dribbled through and then made the layup."
ELC didn't start well against the Dutch as it looked like their star, Alexis Conaway, was going to beat the Midgets singlehandedly.
The 6-foot junior scored eight points in the first period including one at the buzzer to give the Dutch a 14-8 lead.
As poorly as ELC played, the Midgets were happy to be as close as they were.
"That first quarter could not have gone worse, yet we were down just six," said Klein.
ELC caught fire in the second quarter. Allie Sievert hit two jumpers to start a 13-0 run. Sara Heywood then knocked down a trey from the top of the circle to give ELC its first lead at 15-14. A steal and layup by Heywood was followed by another jumper from Sievert. Two free throws by Kirchner gave ELC a 21-14 lead.
Conaway came back with the next four points to cut the deficit to three.
But Kirchner had the last word of the half, hitting a baseline jumper at the buzzer for a 23-18 ELC advantage.
Macy Dahl opened up the third quarter with a 3-pointer, her only points of the game, and Kirchner hit two free throws to push the lead to 10 at 28-18.
Kirchner also had the task of guarding Conaway in the second half.
"My main objective was to try my absolute hardest not to let her get into the lane," said Kirchner. "I'd rather have her shoot the three than drive by me."
The Dutch cut the lead to five, 32-27 when Maggie McCauley hit a trey with about a minute left in the third period.
ELC again led by 10 when Kirchner hit two free throws to start the fourth quarter, 37-27. But then the Dutch stormed back with an 11-2 run helped by a 3-pointer from Sam Wielenga and two baskets from Katie Landhuis. A putback by Wielenga made the score 39-38 with 2:41 remaining.
The Dutch only scored one free throw over the next minute and a half while ELC made six free throws to lead 46-39.
ELC led 47-41 when Conaway missed two free throws with 17 seconds remaining, but Emily McDonald grabbed the rebound and got the putback to cut the deficit to four.
Two free throws by Allie Sievert with 13 seconds remaining put ELC up 49-43. Conaway then hit a 3-pointer with 3 seconds left, but the Dutch had no time outs as ELC let the clock run out.
The Dutch lost despite shooting 51.4 percent (18-of-35) from the field. However MOC-Floyd Valley had 23 turnovers compared to 11 by ELC. The Midgets shot just 29. 3 percent (12-of-41) from the field, but were 22-of-24 (91.7 percent) from the free throw line.
Sara Heywood and Casey Sievert both finished with five points while Dahl and McCauley both had three points. McCauley's three points were the only points off the bench by either team. Dahl finished with four assists while Allie Sievert also had five steals and two blocked shots.
Conaway led the Dutch with 22 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the field , but was just 5-of-10 from the free throw line. Landhuis added 1 points on 5-of-7 shooting.
MOC-FLOYD VALLEY (46)-Yaw 1-4 0-0 2; Wielenga 24 2-4 7; Conaway 8-11 5-10 22; Landhuis 5-7 0-0 11; McDonald 2-6 0-1 4; Harmelink 0-0 0-0 0; Probst 0-0 0-0 0; Vander Voort 0-0 0-0 0; Achterhof 0-2 0-0 Schuiteman 0-1 0-0. Totals 18-35 7-15.
ESTHERVILLE (49)-Dahl 1-4 0-0 3, Heywood 2-5 0-0 5, Kirchner 3-9 12-12 18, C. Sievert 1-8 3-4 5, A. Sievert 4-14 7-8, McCauley 1-1 0-0 3. Totals 12-41 22-24.
3-point goals-MOC-FV (Wielenga 1-1; Conaway 1-2, Landhuis 1-3, Yaw 0-2, McDonald 0-1), Estherville 3-8 (McCauley 1-1, Heywood 1-2, Dahl 1-3). Rebounds-MOC-FV 30 (Conaway 12), Estherville 21 (Kirchner 8). Assists-MOC-FV 7 (Yaw 5), Estherville 8 (Dahl 4). Fouls-MOC-FV 16, Estherville 14. Fouled out-None.