Newell-Fonda has more state tournament experience than any team in the Class 1A field, and that worries opposing coaches.
According to Sentral of Fenton coach Glen Preston, it was one of the major factors in his team's jittery performance in an 86-40 loss to the Mustangs Monday in a state tournament quarterfinal game in Des Moines.
And the Mustangs' experience is what concerns Dunkerton coach Justin Little, whose team is next in line in Newell-Fonda's bid to finish undefeated and win its fifth state title in school history.
Newell-Fonda meets Dunkerton today at 10:30 a.m. in a state semifinal game at Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Des Moines.
"They're a great team, very physical and with great players," Little said Tuesday night. "But what concerns me most is that they've been in tight state tournament games before. We just haven't had that experience."
Nevertheless, Dunkerton did just fine in it's first state tourney game Monday. It was the Raiders' first state tournament appearance since 1933.
The Raiders, 24-1, pounded Iowa Mennonite in their quarterfinal 63-40.
Newell-Fonda coach Paul Loos was impressed with Dunkerton, and he knows if his team wins, it probably won't be in a walk like Monday's game.
"Once you get to the state semifinals, you know you're always going to play a very tough opponent," Loos said.
The Raiders have a tough inside-outside attack that features 6-foot-7 post player Kyle Kuentsling and 6-foot-1 guard Brian Brungard.
Dunkerton will be bigger than Newell-Fonda. It also features 6-6 sophomore Keith Kuentsling and 6-4 senior Zach Rigdon. It might be the tallest team the Mustangs have met since it's two wins over Alta and a win over Class 3A Storm Lake.
The question for the Raiders is, can they match Newell-Fonda's physical play underneath.
"The battle of the boards is going to be a key factor in the game, along with how we handle the overall experience and their full-court press," Little said.
Added Loos" "We've played teams bigger than us this season. Alta had a couple of 6-8, 6-7 kids and we were able to beat them twice. Storm Lake had Casey Morgan and a couple other taller kid and we beat them in a close game.'
Keys down the tournament stretch for the Mustangs have been the rebounding of seniors Austin Wells and Tim Seagran and some accurate shooting from the field.
The Mustangs shot 58 percent in the first half against Sentral-Fenton and shot well over that in the first quarter of a thrilling win over LeMars-Gehlen in the substate finals.
"Our shooting accuracy just shows that we've been very focused in each of our last few games," Loos said.
Defense has also been a key. It was textbook against Sentral-Fenton, causing 23 Spartan turnovers.
Defensively, Dunkerton will have to find a way to contain probable first team all-state pick Matt Stauter, who averages nearly 21 points per game.
Forward Aaron Kaufman averages 12.4 ppg while Wells averages 10.3 per game. Point guard Beau Artist completes the balanced attack. He's averaging 7.7 points per game and is tough at the point. Wells averages 8.6 rebounds per game and Seagran 6.3.
Nevertheless, there is good reason for Loos and his team to be concerned about Dunkerton, which lost to Bellevue-Marquette at substate last season.
Like Newell-Fonda, the Raiders are a senior-dominated team, with four of five starters being seniors.
And as mentioned, the Raiders are big, and versatile.
According to Little, Kuentsling, a 6-7 senior and Brungard have been the team's two leaders.
"Kyle is 6-7 but he's very agile for his size so we'll often use him as a guard or at any other position," Little said. "He can post up and hit the inside shot or spot out and take the three."
Brungard is a four-year starter and is the Raiders' leading scorer, averaging 16.8 ppg.
"He's the whole package for a point guard, and the best player I've ever coached," said Little. "He's a great outside shooter and can hit the NBA-length three; he has outstanding shooting range. He can put the ball on the floor and does a lot of things offensively when he penetrates the defense. And at the end of the game, we want the ball in his hands. He's a go-to, clutch player."
Kuentsling averages 13.8 points per game, while his 6-6 brother Keith comes off the bench to average 12.8 points per game.
The other starters are 6-foot junior Matt Hosford, 6-2 senior Zac Rekers and 6-4 senior Zach Rigdon. Rekers averages nearly nine points per game while Hosford and Rigdon about four and a half points each.
Little says his team has handled presses well this season and is athletic. He isn't necessarily worried that his team will have trouble with the Mustangs' vaunted press, but says it could be a factor.
"I'm more concerned how our kids will react to it initially and what effect it could have on us later in the game as far as wearing us down," he said.
Little added that his team can play at any tempo, and has played some tough competition, winning all it's non-conference games against Class 2A teams and also beating Class 3A Decorah.
"We'd prefer to get the ball up and down the court, but can also play a halfcourt game," Most of all, Little is concerned about Newell-Fonda's overall experience.
"Their kids all played in a state tournament championship game last year, while we haven't," he said. "They know what big games are all about."