Trojans sink treys, Spartans to join league lead

STATE CENTER – The 3-point game may not be their forte.

But the Trojans are more than capable of knocking them down.

Connecting on five treys in the first quarter and seven in the game, the West Marshall girls’ basketball team kept Class 1A No. 7 Grundy Center’s defense off balance just enough in a 63-58 victory in NICL West Division play Friday.

McKenna Hotopp (3 treys) and Whitney Benson (2 treys) each tallied 16 points as the Trojans (12-3, 8-1) moved into a tie with the Spartans (10-3, 8-1) atop the conference with their fifth straight win.

“The first quarter went about as well as we could hope,” West Marshall coach Fred Zeller said. “We’re more of a post-oriented team, but against (Heather Hook and Sam Meyers) it’s pretty hard to get anything inside. We just had good ball movement and different people making shots.”

Benson was one of three Trojans to connect from deep in the first, and her second triple at the end of the opening frame capped a 10-0 run as the Trojans claimed an early 25-14 advantage. Gabby Ryerson added a basket at the start of the second to give West Marshall a 13-point advantage – its largest of the contest – before the Spartans got going.

“Their 3-point shooting is stupendous,” Grundy Center coach Al Jones said. “It’s gotten better as the season has gone along. You can’t leave one of them open.”

After being burned in their revolving man-to-man defense to start, Jones switched to a zone as the Spartans clamped down in the second.

Grundy Center rallied with a 15-6 run including a late trey from Riley Ackerman to beat the buzzer. After losing the ball, the senior tracked it down, turned and drilled a triple as Grundy Center closed the gap to 33-29 at the break.

“We did not play hard with our defense in the first half,” Jones said.

“In the second half we put tremendous ball pressure on them and got some steals.”

Following a 3 from Katie Lindeman, Meyers scored three straight baskets inside to give the Spartans their first lead at 38-37 midway through the third. Once again, the Trojans answered from deep.

Hotopp hit two treys and Benson stole the inbounds pass for a layup before the buzzer as West Marshall closed on a 12-2 surge to push the margin to 51-40 entering the fourth.

A 3-point play from Ackerman, a spinner through the lane by Hook and a jumper from Lindeman highlighted 10 unanswered points from the Spartans who trimmed the deficit to 59-57 with 2:51 to play.

Though the Trojans’ defense bent, it never broke.

“There were times where their pressure got to us, but overall I thought we didn’t succumb to the pressure,” Zeller said.

Hotopp and Hook each made one of two from the line to leave the margin at 60-58 with 1:01 left. Benson sealed the win by hitting 3-of-4 at the line as the Trojans returned the favor from Dec. 4 at Grundy Center by nearly the same score. The Spartans won the first meeting 63-59.

Sydney Beals had 11 points and Freland added 10, while Jennifer Davis had eight for the Trojans, who have only lost to ranked teams this season.

Meyers poured in a game-high 21 points while Lindeman had 13 for Grundy Center. Hook scored 11 and Ackerman had nine.

The Spartans host East Marshall Tuesday, while the Trojans face South Tama on the road that night.

“We’re going to enjoy this one, but we’ve got a tough one coming up,” Zeller said.

“We’ve got a long ways to go.”