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SEVENTH HEAVEN

—Submitted Photo Members of the state qualifying team are, front row, left to right, Rylee Hogrefe, Greta Larsen, Kierra Jungers, Isabel Bartek, Mckenns Sievers, Camryn Puhmann, Mareni Brabec, Jaicee Vanderhoff. Back: Chad Hinders, Dick Jungers, Alyssa Hutchinson, Lilli Weinzetl, Ava Via, Anna Mercer, Kinzee Hinders, Jocee Walsh, Lindsay Wolf, Mylie Hinders, Grace Erickson, Courtney Darrow, Kevin Larsen.

DES MOINES — Excuse Dick Jungers if he takes a few extra moments to enjoy the coming week.

While the Newell-Fonda girls head coach is no stranger to state trips, this one holds a little extra meaning for him.

The second-ranked Mustangs (22-2 overall) begin their quest for another crown when they face Calamus-Wheatland (20-4) here Wednesday night inside Wells Fargo Arena in the quarterfinals at 5 p.m.

Not only is this the seventh consecutive state appearance for one of the more decorated small-school programs in the state, it is the 15th under Jungers.

Why is that number important? Because a certain senior was hanging around the team during that very first appearance all those years ago.

Kierra Jungers, his daughter, is one of four seniors on the current roster along with Greta Larsen, the daughter of long-time assistant Kevin Larsen, Isabel Bartek and McKenna Sievers.

“When Kevin and I started this, I never imagined it would grow into what it has become,” an emotional Jungers said following the regional final. “They were the water girls for those teams and got to experience it all.

“It just really means so much to me that we are going back. We never take qualifying for state for granted because so much hard work goes into each and every season.”

The only blemishes on the record for the Mustangs this year came in close setbacks to top-ranked (2A) and fellow state qualifier Estherville-LC. Outside of those two games, Newell-Fonda scored over 90 points three times, including a season-high 105, while surpassing 70 in 15 others.

Jungers, junior Kinzee Hinders, Sievers and Bartek all average double figures, as the team has 179 made 3-pointers on the year.

During the regular season, the Mustangs defeated fellow 1A state qualifier and two-time defending champion Bishop Garrigan, 72-51, and topped 2A state qualifier Sioux Central, 48-38. Those are the only losses for both teams this year.

Newell-Fonda claimed three straight state titles from 2019-21 and are four-time champions overall with five runner-up finishes, including last year.

Calamus-Wheatland survived Danville in the regional final to advance to state for the first time in program history, 56-51. The Warriors have won 14 straight and went 12-0 in the Tri-Rivers Conference East division.

They are led by seniors Emily Boeckmann and Kahlie Hill, who are both averaging around 13 points a night. Hill will play at St. Ambrose University next year.

Over the last five seasons, Calamus-Wheatland has gone 85-32. They were ousted in a regional semifinal by North Linn last year.

Awaiting the winner between Newell-Fonda and Calamus-Wheatland will be either Remsen St. Mary’s (23-0) or Martensdale-St. Marys (18-6) in Friday’s semifinals. The other side of the bracket sees North Linn (23-1) take on Montezuma and Bishop Garrigan (23-1) battle Council Bluffs St. Albert (22-1).

The championship game is scheduled for Saturday at 7 p.m.

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