Newell-Fonda players knew Friday night's game with Storm Lake-St. Mary's was nearly a must-win situation if they wanted to stay in the Northwest Conference race.
"We were ready to play right away and I think that showed in the first quarter," Newell-Fonda's 6-foot-post player Sam Schaffer after the game. "I don't know if it was our best game of the season, but it was pretty close."
Indeed. The Mustangs vaulted to a 24-12 lead after the first quarter and led 36-14 at the half before cruising to a 59-35 win over St. Mary's.
"Every once in a while, a team is going to have an off-night," Panther coach Ryan Berg said. "This was ours tonight."
The Mustangs shot well from beyond the arc, making 11 three-pointers, including six from senior off-guard Hanna Reis.
Newell-Fonda also played well on the defensive end, holding all-area junior guard Abby Richardson to just six points.
"We could never get into a rhythm offensively," Berg said. "But give them credit; they played great defense and were very physical under the basket.'
Reis finished with a game-high 21 points while forward Ashley Lussman and point guard Sarah Culp added nine each.
St. Mary's post player Janie Imming scored a team-high eight points while junior off-guard Jess Lussman added eight points.
With the win, the Mustangs improved to 5-1 in the Northwest Conference and to 5-4 overall.
The Panthers fell to 7-2 and are also 5-1 in conference action.
"This was a big win for us," N-F coach Dick Jungers said. "We played tenacious defense and really got after it on the boards.
"We got some early looks from beyond the arc and our girls did a great job knocking them down."
Sioux Central 76,
Senior post player Stef Madsen hit 12 of 14 two pointers in Sioux Rapids Friday night, scoring a game-high 25 points in the Rebels' 76-58 win over Schaller-Crestland.
With the victory, Sioux Central improved to 3-3 in conference play and to 5-3 overall.
Sioux Central jumped to a 19-10 lead after one quarter and just kept expanding the lead. They held a 34-21 lead at the half and led 61-37 at the end of the third quarter.
According to Sioux Central coach Darren Piercy, his team may have broken the single game school record for assists.
"I haven't looked at the tape yet, but we must have had 25 or more assists," he said Friday night. "We had an outstanding offensive game; our kids made the extra-pass and we had some wide-open looks.
"We still need to be better defensively," he added.
Senior power forward Ayla Ringgenberg had her best scoring performance of the season by notching 23 points.
Guard Becky Willer also hit double figures with 14 points.
According to Piercy, the Wildcats had trouble matching up with the Rebels' overall team speed.
"We got up and down the court well all night and they had some difficulties with their transition defense," Piercy said.
Sioux Central junior forward Briana Scharn netted 18 points for the winners while guard Beth Ehlers added nine.
"We could very easily be unbeaten at this point," Piercy said.
"We've been in several close game that we just haven't been able to finish. We hope to be better in that area during the second half of our season."
Sioux Central is still in the race for a conference title, but it faces five straight conference road games and seven straight games on the road.
"I don't know why our schedule was set up that way, but we definitely have a tough road ahead of us," Piercy.
This week, the Sioux Central girls play at Aurelia Tuesday night, then plays at Newell-Fonda on Friday. Schaller-Crestland is at Storm Lake-St. Mary's Tuesday night and plays at Sac City Friday night.