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PREP GIRLS BASKETBAL: Lions punch ticket to state

Jeff Arenz/Daily Globe The Central Lyon Lions celebrate with their state qualifier banner after making it to their first girls state tournament. From left to right: Kenzie Leuthold, Claire Snyder, Sarah Halse (purple headband), Lexi Ackerman, Kori Schulte, Wynter Roths, Kelsey Ackerman, Mackenzie Lutmer.1 / 2
Jeff Arenz/Daily Globe Central Lyon's Ivy Sieperda passes to a teammate.2 / 2

SIOUX CENTER, Iowa -- The best season in the history of the Central Lyon girls basketball program just became better.

The Lions earned their first trip to the IGHSAU Class 1A Girls Basketball State Tournament after rallying to defeat the West Sioux Falcons 60-41 for the Region 1 Tournament title on Monday.

"This has been a goal for us all year long," Central Lyon co-head coach Dan Kruse said. "We have taken (this season) one game at a time. This game got us into the state tournament, so that was our next goal."

The Lions (23-2 overall), who established a new single-season record for wins this year, will play Earlham (16-9) in the quarterfinals of the Class 1A state tournament at 3:15 p.m. Monday at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.

Trailing 25-19 at halftime, Central Lyon came out of the locker room focused upon turning up its defensive intensity. Playing a full-court man-to-man defense, the Lions pressured the Falcons into committing turnover-after-turnover.

"We went in with a game plan and we tried to execute it in the first half, but we were not covering the middle like we needed to," Central Lyon co-head coach Bruce Eckenrod said. "Defensively, we didn't change anything. We just started covering the middle in the second half and it made a world of difference."

Eckenrod said the Lions defense was able to force West Sioux into traps Central Lyon had set on the sidelines.

The result was a 21-0 scoring explosion that Central Lyon used to create a 40-25 lead heading into the final 8 minutes.

Kori Schulte ignited the Lions in the third quarter, when she scored eight of her team-leading 18 points on an early layup before draining a pair of left-side 3-pointers.

Schulte's first 3-pointer in the third tied the game at 25 before Lexi Ackerman used a baseline drive to give Central Lyon its first lead (27-25) at the 5:27 mark.

"It's so much fun to play with these seniors (Schulte and Kelsi Ackerman)," Lexi Ackerman, a senior, said. "When we're on the court, we play like we're so in-synch. That's what makes it all work."

But the Lions were only getting started.

Central Lyon's Sarah Halse made only two baskets in the game --one of which was top-of-the-key 3-pointer with 4:56 left in the third -- before Wynter Roths converted an old-fashioned 3-point play, helping the Lions take a 33-27 lead.

Lexi Ackerman finished with 15 points, while Halse ended up with 14 markers for Central Lyon. They combined to make 16 of 20 free throws as the Lions made 21 of 27 charity shots overall.

Schulte drained the third of her trio of 3-pointers and Angel Rasmussen and Ivy Sieperda both added transition layups to cap the Lions' run.

"We were not in the locker room very long (at halftime) because we were not going to dwell on the first half," Kruse said. "We told the girls that we were not going to change anything. Whatever (West Sioux) was going to do (in the second half), we were going to run our offense and do what we do best."

West Sioux's only answer in the third came from Jade Lynn Vlotho, who scored the Falcons' only basket in the final minute of the quarter.

Vlotho, who led all scorers with 23 points, established herself underneath the basket in the first half, when she scored 12 of West Sioux's first 25 points.

In addition to Vlotho, Bailey Van Den Berg had nine points on three 3-pointers, but the rest of the Falcons combined to score nine points.

Central Lyon relied upon its free-throw shooting during the fourth quarter, when the Lions connected 14 of 18 times at the charity stripe.

West Sioux, which made 3 of 5 fourth-quarter free throws, was limited to 6 of 11 charity shots.

On Monday, the Lions avenged last year's regional championship loss to LeMars Gehlen Catholic, which defeated Central Lyon 54-53 in overtime.





At Sioux Center



WEST SIOUX (15-9): Van Den Berg 3 0-1 9, Rehder 0 0-0 0, Liston 0 0-0 0, Westra 0 0-0 0, Hummel 0 0-0 0, Negaard 1 0-2 2, Anderson 1 0-0 2, Mace 0 0-0 0, Schmidt 2 1-1 5, Banda 0 0-0 0, Strong 0 0-0 0, Vlotho 9 5-7 23. Totals: 16 6-11 41.

CENTRAL LYON (23-2): Sieperda 1 0-0 2, Rasmussen 2 1-2 5, Fastert 0 0-0 0, K. Ackerman 0 0-0 0, L. Ackerman 4 7-10 15, Snyder 0 0-0 0, Schulte 6 3-4 18, Roths 2 1-1 6, Struckman 0 0-0 0, Leuthold 0 0-0 0, Halse 2 9-10 14, Lutmer 0 0-0 0. Totals: 17 21-27 60.

West Sioux 9 10 21 20 -- 41

Central Lyon 10 15 2 14 -- 60

3-Point Goals: West Sioux 3 (Van Den Berg 3); Central Lyon 5 (Schulte 3, Roths, Halse). Total Fouls (Fouled Out): West Sioux 25 (Anderson); Central Lyon 12 (none). Technical Fouls: None.