Trojans paste high-scoring Pirates 72-54

CONRAD – Their head coach says they’re not a pressing team.

Their first two postseason victims would beg to disagree.

The Class 2A No. 8-ranked West Marshall girls’ basketball team bottled up ninth-ranked Hudson for a first-quarter advantage the Pirates could not overcome, advancing to the regional finals for the second year in a row with a 72-54 victory on Friday night at BCLUW High School.

West Marshall (20-3) tamed Hudson’s full-throttle play with its full-court press from the opening whistle, scoring the game’s first 11 points and maintaining at least that much of a margin for the remainder.

The Trojans called off the pressure as the game wore on, only to find Hudson (20-3) eager to return the favor. The Pirates used a 9-0 stretch during the third quarter to cut a 21-point margin to 12, and the gap got to 11 twice more.

West Marshall used its own 9-0 rally to regain a 53-33 lead midway through the third, and the Trojans shot 10-for-11 from the free-throw line inside the final 3 minutes to secure their spot in Monday’s regional finals against No. 10 Aplington-Parkersburg (19-3) in Eldora.

“We’re fortunate we got off to a good start again,” said West Marshall coach Fred Zeller. “Our seniors have played a lot of ball and they came out playing confidently.”

The Trojans scored the first 22 points of their regional quarterfinal win over North Tama on Tuesday, and the same full-court press got to the Pirates too. Whitney Benson scored 10 of her 14 points in the first quarter alone, when West Marshall jumped out to a 21-7 lead en route to the team’s 13th consecutive victory.

“The press gets us going, it really helps us to start off the game at full speed,” said Benson, who was a regular reserve on last year’s 2A state qualifier. “Then we’re more relaxed and we can play our style of ball.”

Rachel Freland scored a game-high 24 points as each of the Trojans’ five starters tallied at least seven points. Jennifer Davis had 16 points and nine rebounds, Benson added nine boards to her 14 points, Sydney Beals had 11 points, six rebounds and four assists, while McKenna Hotopp had seven points, nine boards and eight assists.

Freland added five steals to foil a Hudson squad that hadn’t allowed more than 59 points in a game all season long. The Pirates’ only other two losses both came against Dike-New Hartford, which lost 32-24 in its regional semifinal to Aplington-Parkersburg.

West Marshall defeated the Falcons 65-44 on Jan. 22 in Parkersburg, and Hudson topped A-P twice during NICL East Division play.

“We’re not going to underestimate them, we expect it to be a different game this time,” said Benson. “We’re looking forward to going after them.”

Casey Miles scored a team-leading 20 points for Hudson. Lindsey Koch added 11, Abby Hillmer had nine, Amanda Cartney eight and Hope Petry six.