A-P foils Trojans’ bid for second straight state trip

ELDORA – Aplington-Parkersburg found the formula for weathering West Marshall’s full-court storm, but the Trojans had trouble scoring without Rachel Freland in the equation.

The 10th-ranked A-P Falcons took a page out of West Marshall’s postseason playbook, controlling the tempo and scoring in bunches, to hand the No. 8 Trojans a 57-49 defeat in their Class 2A Region 3 final Monday night at South Hardin High School.

Aplington-Parkersburg (20-3) used an 8-0 run in the first quarter to take the lead, and a 10-0 surge to start the final period put the Falcons out of reach. A-P will face No. 7 Panorama (23-2) in next Monday’s opening round of the girls’ state basketball tournament at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.

The loss ended a 13-game win streak for West Marshall (20-4), a run of victories that included a 21-point shellacking of these same Falcons in Parkersburg just four weeks earlier.

The Falcons came out intent on denying Freland, a sophomore averaging 14.9 points per game, her piece of the scoring pie. The fifth-highest scoring team in 2A, West Marshall was held well below its 63 ppg average in falling one win shy of back-to-back trips to the state tournament.

“(Aplington-Parkersburg) had a pretty good gameplan for taking Rachel out of the game,” said West Marshall coach Fred Zeller. “They moved the ball pretty well on offense and they out-quicked us. We were defensively a little flat tonight.”

The Trojans tried to apply the same early pressure that propeled them to 22- and 11- point leads in the opening minutes of their first two playoff victories, but Aplington-Parkersburg played conservative enough to avoid making turnovers in the open court.

Without a handful of easy layups, and with Bailie Schipper shadowing Freland everywhere she went on offense, West Marshall’s opportunities to score were limited. Schipper was out with an injury the last time these two teams played, when Freland scored 15.

“We didn’t get much out of our press but we still got off to a pretty good start,” said Zeller. “The game was probably played at their pace.”

That didn’t deter Trojan senior guard McKenna Hotopp from matching her career-high with 22 points, leading all scorers in her last game. But she was the only West Marshall player to reach double figures against A-P’s more deliberate style of play.

Forced into a half-court game, the Trojans were held below 50 points for just the third time all season – all losses. The last was a 57-34 setback against 3A No. 7 North Polk on Dec. 15 – the last time West Marshall was defeated.

“A-P made plays and they got momentum and got confidence, and we probably didn’t get enough offense inside,” Zeller added. “The big thing was that (A-P) got confidence as the game went on and we got a little tired.”

A 3-pointer by Hotopp at the 7:25 mark of the second quarter gave the Trojans their second and final lead of the game, 16-15. The Falcons answered with a 10-2 run and never trailed again.

Freland’s only field goal of the game, a 3-pointer, knotted the score at 34-all with 3:35 left in the third, but tallied four of the final six points in the quarter and the first 10 of the fourth.

West Marshall twice got as close as five, with Hotopp scoring the team’s final six points, but the Falcons made more than enough free throws to advance to the state tournament for the first time since 2001.

A 57 percent free-throw shooting team for the season, A-P made 19-of-28 attempts in the game and 7-of-10 in the last 2 minutes.

“It doesn’t matter what you do during the season,” Zeller said. “When it came down to crunch time they made shots, they made plays.

“I’m proud of our girls, they fought hard until the end. We just couldn’t string anything together.”

West Marshall junior post Jenn Davis finished with nine points, eight rebounds, five steals and four assists, while Whitney Benson had seven points and four assists. Freland was held to five points, Sydney Beals added four points and six boards, and Gabby Reyerson chipped in a layup.

Haleigh Hempen led Aplington-Parkersburg with 17 points, Bailey Luebbers chipped in 13 off the bench and Amanda Dunn finished with 12.