Spartans’ defense stifles Tripoli, 53-34
GRUNDY CENTER – The Panthers represented a familiar postseason opponent for Grundy Center in more ways than one.
Though featuring 10 members from Tripoli’s volleyball team that defeated the Spartans in the Class 1A state championship three months ago, it was the Panthers’ similarities to Grundy Center’s competition from three nights ago that paid dividends Friday.
Heather Hook and Sam Meyers combined for 30 points and the Class 1A No. 6 ranked Spartans used a 13-2 second quarter run to put away Tripoli, 53-34, in a Region 3 semifinal.
Grundy Center coach Al Jones didn’t have to alter the defensive game plan much from Tuesday, when the Spartans defeated Dunkerton 56-36, in holding the Panthers to 34 points – tying their season low.
“Our kids did a good job of taking away their offense,” said Jones, whose squad posted its 10th straight win. “(Tripoli) ran some down screens and Dunkerton ran the very same stuff. Playing Dunkerton three nights ago was very important in us defending them.”
Grundy Center (20-3) advances to face 13th-ranked Marquette Catholic (15-6) in a regional final Monday at 7 p.m. in Manchester. The Mohawks defeated Central Elkader 44-39 in their semifinal Friday. The Spartans are seeking their first state tournament berth since winning the Class 2A title in 2004-05.
The Spartans moved closer to their goal by stretching a 17-13 lead early in the second frame to 30-15 by halftime as Tripoli endured a five-minute scoring drought and had just four points in the quarter. Meyers (14 points) and Hook (16 points) capped the run with a couple buckets inside after each enduring some early foul trouble, which is another familiar subject for the Spartans.
“We’ve been through this before with Heather picking up four fouls (Tuesday),” Jones said.
“We’re very fortunate to have Sydnie Gutosky come off the bench. We can put Sydnie in on defense and then get Sam or Heather back in on offense.”
Meyers picked up her second foul with one second left in the first quarter as Ashlen Damm hit a pair of free throws to bring the Panthers within 15-11. Meyers was then whistled for her third less than a minute into the second quarter and sat briefly before returning as the Spartans stretched the lead.
Hook had her third foul 30 seconds into the third though the Spartans still pushed their advantage to 20. McKayla Meyer brought Tripoli (12-12) within 39-24 late in the quarter, but the Panthers couldn’t get any closer the rest of the way.
“We were trying to attack (Hook and Meyers) and keep them in foul trouble, but sometimes we lost sight of what we were trying to do,” Tripoli coach Kelby Bergmann said.
“One of their other girls would step up and help and we would just keep attacking instead of dumping. We had some girls open underneath the basket and we just didn’t see that.”
Meyer led the Panthers with 10 points, while Tripoli’s leading scorer, Damm (12.9 ppg), added seven and made just one field goal. Katie Lindeman chipped in nine points for Grundy Center.
Though Tripoli ended Grundy Center’s season in defeat on the volleyball court, the Spartans had no trouble leaving that memory off the hardwood.
“We know a lot of the girls on their team and we’re definitely aware of the fact they beat us in volleyball,” Hook said.
“We kept our composure and just played a basketball game – because we’re in basketball now.”
Tripoli’s victory over Grundy Center in the Class 1A volleyball state championship in November sealed their fifth straight title. 10 members of the Panthers’ basketball team were on their latest championship squad including all-state selections Bailey Kirchoff and Courtney Anderson.