Momentum on North Union’s side as team heads to state
DES MOINES — North Union made the shot viewed around the state.
Senior Hallie Reese threw up a one-handed desperation three-pointer that banked in and sent the Warriors to the state tournament for the first time since the schools consolidated.
In their regional final, the 10th-ranked senior Breanna Anderson found Reese, who hit the improbable buzzer-beater to upset No. 3 defending state champion Western Christian. The video clip of the ending went viral on social media.
The Warriors (21-2 overall) were in the ballgame the entire way, and even though they were a longshot, North Union knows it belongs in the Class 2A field.
“We feel like we belong,” said sixth-year North Union head coach Dr. Merle Tigges. “We weren’t playing behind (against Western Christian), and they had actually tied us up.
“We feel like we belong enough, and got over the edge with a once-in-a-lifetime type of shot. Entering in such dramatic fashion says your team doesn’t quit and stays in games.”
North Union has never made the state tournament, but before consolidation, North Sentral Kossuth qualified in 2010.
Tigges, who is in his 20th year of coaching overall, has a career record of 265-82. He’s 117-40 with the Warriors.
This is his first state appearance as a head coach. He was an assistant on the North Sentral Kossuth squad of ’10 with then-head coach Joel Klocke, who is now an assistant for Tigges.
“We have coached together for 11 years,” Tigges said. “It’s like having two head coaches. It’s a bonus to have another person on your side who has been with you so long.”
The 22-win Warriors have victories over six ranked opponents, including three over teams in the Top-6. Their only losses are to No. 13 Forest City (3A) and fourth-rated Osage (3A).
“It was a bonus to have everyone back,” Tigges said. “These girls have been playing together for a long time. We feel like we’re taking the next step.”
The North Union starting rotation is led by four seniors and a sophomore. The Warriors have a balanced scoring attack, as three players averaging around 15 points a contest.
Sophomore Chloe Lofstrom averages 17 points per contest. She is also averaging nine rebounds.
Senior Samantha Hagedorn (14.9) and Reese (14.6) are also key threats. Hagedorn leads the team in three-pointers made (42), steals (55) and assists (108).
Seniors Kate Anderson (7.2) and Breanna Anderson (7.5) round out the starting rotation. Kate is second on the team in threes made (37), and is third in assists (72). Breanna is third in rebounds (97), second in assists (73), and second in steals (51).
The Warriors lost junior Maddie Rolling at the beginning of the season to a torn ACL.
“It’s a huge bonus to have three girls averaging around 15 points per contest,” Tigges said. “All of our girls have chipped in and can make shots.
“We share the ball well. The girls that come off the bench play their roles well.”
Tigges knew he had a special group in the preseason, and the chemistry has developed as the year progressed.
“This year, they have grown to appreciate each other,” Tigges said. “You have got to have girls rebound and everyone has to do their roll and play at a high level — they’re tough to beat.
“We have accomplished what we wanted (qualifying for state), but now what do we want to do? We have to be on our A-game (on Wednesday).”
The Warriors open tournament play against third-ranked Panorama (23-1) at 11:45 a.m. The semifinal contest will be Friday at 11:45 a.m.
North Union will be well-represented in the stands, as Tigges is impressed with the support from the seven different communities.
“We’ve had great fan support through out the season,” Tigges said. “Our fanbase has turned out been excellent with attendance.”
NORTH UNION STARTERS
Kate Anderson, sr., 5-8, 7.2
Hallie Reese, sr., 5-9, 14.6
Chloe Lofstrom, so., 5-11, 17.0
Breanna Anderson, sr., 5-5, 7.5
Samantha Hagedorn, sr., 5-7, 14.9