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Mustangs, Bears back on state stage

Newell-Fonda and Bishop Garrigan will set a course for Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines next week, as both punched tickets to the girls state basketball tournament.

The No. 1 Mustangs, defending Class 1A state champions, claimed an 83-50 victory over Woodbury Central for the Region 8 title in Cherokee Wednesday night.

Meanwhile, the fourth-ranked Golden Bears downed East Buchanan for the Region 2 crown in Hampton, 63-46, to earn their second trip in three seasons.

Emmetsburg was knocked out by Osage in the 2A, Region 2 final, 67-60, in Garner.

With the win, Newell-Fonda (24-0 overall) pushed its current win streak to 51 games, as they are now 77-1 over the past three seasons and 97-5 since 2016.

“Going back to state is a great feeling,” Ella Larsen said. “It’s hard to explain the way we all feel, but it’s definitely a great experience. This year is a new field with new teams to play, and we know we have the target on our backs heading into our next game.

“We’re just looking to play Mustang basketball and let everything else take care of itself.”

Larsen is one of two returning starters from last season when Newell-Fonda capped off its 14th trip to the elite eight with a 76-52 victory in the finals over West Hancock. Megan Morenz also started that night, and nine other underclassmen stepped on the court.

“As a team, we knew we had to come in to every game focused and ready,” Larsen said. “Coach (Dick Jungers) tells us that we have to come 100 percent ready every game because teams want to take us down so bad.”

The Mustangs earned the No. 1 seed and will face Council Bluffs St. Albert (13-11) at 1:30 p.m. next Wednesday. The Golden Bears take on Martensdale-St. Mary’s (17-8) at 6:45 p.m. that same night as the No. 3 seed.

Semifinals are next Friday at 1:30 p.m. and 3:15 p.m. with the finals scheduled for next Saturday at 7 p.m. Montezuma (22-1) meets Saint Ansgar (20-2) and Bellevue Marquette (22-1) battles LeMars Gehlen (14-9).

Bishop Garrigan will be appearing at state for the fifth time and features a group of experienced players alongside two talented freshmen in Audi Crooks and Molly Joyce.

Crooks scored 21 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter. Joyce added 16 with Katie Noonan and Gracie Elsbecker adding key 3-pointers.

“We battled through some poor shooting, but really defended at a high-level for three-plus quarters,” BGHS head coach Brandon Schwab said. “They did everything they could to take Audi away and she played very well, especially late.

“The crowd was amazing and I am just so happy and proud to get back to state with this group.”

Action at the girls state tournament begins Monday with Class 5A quarterfinals and continues through Saturday when five state champions are crowned.

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