The excitement is building as the 2013 Iowa Girls State Basketball Tournament approaches.
For area Class 3A fans, third-ranked Estherville Lincoln Central and ninth-ranked Spirit Lake (two schools just 16 minutes apart) will travel 3 hours showcase the talent from Northwest Iowa on the state's biggest stage-Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
"I'm excited, the girls are excited-it's just an honor to play down there," said ELC coach Tony Klein, who is wrapping up his first season as the Midgets' head coach.
Estherville Lincoln Central and Spirit Lake will meet on the court for the third time this season in the first-round of the Class 3A Iowa Girls State Basketball Tournament at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines on Tuesday. Game time is 5 p.m.
EDN file photo
Klein wasn't a part of the last time Estherville Lincoln Central and Spirit Lake played three times in the same season. After ELC had won the regular season contests, the Indians ousted the Midgets from the postseason in a Class 2A Region Quarterfinal, 40-37. That was in 2010 when the current seniors were freshmen.
ELC was a little short-handed by the time that game came around having lost point guard Sara Heywood to injury as well as back-up point guard Macy Dahl.
KJ Veldman, her team's top scorer that season, only scored three points in the game, but the scoring was spread between nine players with the leaders only scoring six.
|Estherville Lincoln Central (21-3)|
|2/3||Macy Dahl, SR||5-8||3.2||32.5||36.4||47.8||2.5|
|14/15||Sara Heywood, SR||5-7||9.0||53.7||36.0||73.7||1.9|
|20/21||Emily Kirchner, SR||5-8||13.7||48.6||0.0||70.4||7.3|
|24/25||Casey Sievert, SR||5-11||9.2||53.7||36.0||73.7||2.8|
|42/43||Allie Sievert, SR||6-0||14.4||51.0||50.0||80.4||7.5|
|Spirit Lake (16-8)|
|2/3||Alissa Christoffer, SR||5-6||11.3||31.7||24.6||67.3||2.3|
|14/15||KJ Veldman, SR||5-7||20.3||46.2||40.5||82.0||6.9|
|20/21||Abbey Horsman, JR||5-6||2.9||29.6||26.7||38.5||1.7|
|24/25||Kendra Stokke, SR||5-10||2.5||30.7||0.0||36.0||4.9|
|32/33||Emma Dau, SO||5-10||9.5||34.4||31.7||70.0||4.8|
|Game time: 5 p.m.|
|Where: Wells Fargo Arena, Des Moines|
Spirit Lake hasn't won against ELC since, in spite of good play by Veldman in a couple games. She scored 23 points in a 54-37 loss to the Midgets as a sophomore.
While Veldman was out with an injury in the teams' first meeting this season, the now senior scored 27 points in a 51-36 loss. She didn't get much help from her teammates in the contest as she was 9-of-16 from the field and the rest of the team was 3-of-23. But ELC has owned the series.
Fast forward to the upcoming state playoff game between the two rivals.
ELC's seniors know to expect a battle.
"It's always tough to beat a team three times in a row," said ELC coach Tony Klein. "We're not over-confident at all."
While Veldman's scoring average is down slightly from 23.0 to 20.3 points, the senior is shooting 49.5 percent from 3-point range and 82 percent from the free-throw line. She scored 27, 22 and 25 points in the three region games. Other players to watch for the ELC defense are Alissa Christoffer, who is averaging 11.3 points per game, and sophomore Emma Dau, who is averaging 9.5 points per contest.
Yes, ELC has a few more weapons with two 1,000-plus point scorers-Allie Sievert and Emily Kirchner-compared to Spirit Lake's one-Veldman.
With the extra time to prepare for the state tournament, Klein said the focus in practice has been getting back to the fundamentals and slowly working in a game plan throughout the week.
After a hard practice Friday night, he said the Midgets are tapering off in order to be ready to go.
While Spirit Lake played a man-to-man defense in the last meeting, the Midgets' offense isn't concerned with how the Indians will play as in focusing on "cleaning things up," said Klein.
On the defensive side of the ball, he said, "You can expect to see us in a 'man' defense," which the Midgets have played all year.
Looking at the rest of the field, top-ranked Davenport Assumption is the obvious favorite after winning back-to-back 3A champions the past two seasons. While the Knights have lost two games each of the past three seasons, the losses were to schools in a higher class.
ELC is a little more familiar with second-ranked MOC-Floyd Valley as the Midgets lost to the Dutch in the second game of the season. MOC-Floyd Valley was runner-up to Assumption in last year's 3A title game.
The Dutch are led by 6-foot junior Alexis Conaway, who averages 18.3 points per game.
While ELC versus MOC-Floyd Valley is a potential second-round matchup, the Midgets' know their first priority-beat Spirit Lake.