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PREP GIRLS BASKETBALL: Central Lyon claims first state title in win over Newell-Fonda

DES MOINES -- One-for-one.

That is Central Lyon's record in Class 1A Girls' Basketball State Championship games.

"This is great for our program," Central Lyon coach Dan Kruse said. "I am so proud of our girls and the hard work they have put in this season."

The top-ranked Lions qualified for their first state tournament this year and made the most of the opportunity by winning the Class 1A championship in a nail-biting 63-61 victory over No. 2 Newell-Fonda.

"The program has been a work in progress for us," Kruse, who has been with the program for the past 11 years, said. "There was a time where we lost 40 straight games in a row.

"But we built this team on a hard work ethic and we pride ourselves in outworking everyone we play."

Central Lyon survived a late charge by the Mustangs and the foul problems of star guard Lexi Ackerman, who was voted captain of the all-tournament team. Ackerman sat for almost seven minutes after picking up her fourth foul in the third quarter and fouled out with 4:07 left after scoring 12 points, grabbing eight rebounds and handing out five assists.

Kori Schulte led Central Lyon with 15 points and nine rebounds, while Ackerman's twin sister Kelsey added 11 points and six rebounds and helped run the team while Lexi was on the bench. The Lions also got a big lift from 5-foot-3 sophomore Angel Rasmussen, who hit two 3-pointers, grabbed four rebounds and handed out five assists.

"There is no doubt that [Kori and Kelsey] did a great job in the last couple minutes after Lexi fouled out," Kruse said. "They knew what we wanted to do on both ends and communicated that to the rest of the girls. On offense, they were telling everyone to stay the course and be strong with the ball."

Renee Maneman's 18 points led Newell-Fonda, which finished as the state runner-up for the fourth time. She also grabbed 10 rebounds and had seven assists. Claudia Larsen and Andrea Christensen each scored 12 points for the Mustangs and Tailer Schrank scored 11.

Central Lyon seemed to be in total control when it took a 56-41 lead on Kelsey Ackerman's 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter. But the Mustangs roared back with a 15-1 run that Schrank capped with back-to-back 3-pointers from the left corner.

That drew the Mustangs to 57-56, but Schulte's steady free throw shooting down the stretch helped keep the Lions in the lead. She sank five of six from the line in the final 3:01, dropping in a last foul shot with 3.1 seconds remaining for the game's final point.

"Kelsey, Kori and Lexi were all crucial for us during the timeouts," Kruse said. "They told everyone not to panic and kept them in the game. And because of that, we were able to gather ourselves and hang in there for the win."

The two teams went back and forth through the first half, which had 10 ties and six lead changes before Rasmussen and Wynter Roths hit back-to-back 3s to put the Lions up 35-30. They led the rest of the way and finished with a 26-2 record. Newell-Fonda finished 24-3.

"When we got the No. 1 seed in the tournament, the girls didn't let it go to their heads," Kruse said. "If anything, they picked up their work ethic even more. The girls knew that we would have a target on our backs, so that made them work harder as a team."

Maneman, Schulte and Christensen also were named to the all-tournament team, along with Morgan Myers of Burlington Notre Dame and Danielle Bender of Marquette Catholic.

N-F 12 18 11 20 - 61

CL 12 23 18 10 - 63