The way 13th-ranked Storm Lake St. Mary's has played defense most of the season and especially in the post-season, the Panthers are going to be trouble for any opponents they face the rest of this season.
That includes Rockwell City-Lytton, St. Mary's' opponent Saturday night in a Class 1A District Final in Rockwell City.
"We've got to find some way to stop their two top scorers," said RC-L coach Dave Birks, referring to all-state guard Abby Richardson and post player Janie Imming.
The Wildcats, 16-6, have already faced St. Mary's, losing a 46-29 decision to the Panthers Jan. 15 in Rockwell City.
Both Panther coach Ryan Berg and Birks know that game means little at this point.
"The last time we played, we played extremely well and I don't think they played as well as they wanted to," Berg said. "We're two different teams at this point, and I'm sure they've improved like we have.'
Three days before the loss to SM, the Wildcats upset then fifth-ranked Southeast Webster.
"We were coming off a very emotional week and we came out flat," Birks said. "It wasn't one of our better games, and we'll be a different team Saturday."
Meanwhile, Birks is worried about Richardson and Imming and the Panthers' inside-outside attack. Richardson averages an area-high 19.2 ppg. while Imming averages 11.7 ppg. and seven boards per game.
"Abby might be the premiere player in the area this season and in Imming, they have one of the most athletic post players around," he said.
Berg is concerned with how his team plays defensively against a bigger team. The Wildcats' front line includes 5-foot-11 senior center Betsy Marsden, 5-10 sophomore Justina Ellis and 5-10 guard Lara Wurr. All three players average about 9.5 points per game.
Senior guard Megan Huster averages nine ppg. and Jamie Meyer five ppg.
"We have some nice balance on offense, with a good inside-outside attack much like St. Mary's," Birks said. "We also average four or five three's a game, mainly from our two guards (Huster and Meyer)."
Berg said he expects RC-L to play better defense than it did Jan. 15.
"We had some nice looks in that first game and were able to knock some shots down," he said. "We know they'll be better (tonight), so we'll have to be patient, make good decisions and take care of the ball."
In the first two games, Richardson has made some key baskets at crucial times, also helping things open up for Imming.
But the Panthers have more than just their two marquee players, one reason while this team has set a school record for wins in a season (19) and is riding a 14-game win streak, also school record.
Guards Jess Lussman and Becky Lenhart are solid offensive and defensive players, with Lussman averaging almost nine points per game and Lenhart four ppg.
The other starter is senior forward Emily Lenhart, an accurate perimeter shooter from 15-feet in. The 5-8 junior has also made some key baskets during the past few weeks.
Post player Rylee Paterson is the first player off the bench for the Panthers.
"It's going to come down to which team plays the best defense," Berg said. "Our main concern is stopping their inside people, but we'll also have to watch out for their three-point shooters."
*Rockwell City-Lytton averages 47 points per game and gives up an average of 39.
*The Wildcats have played five Northwest Conference teams. They've beaten Sioux Central 48-42 and Schaller-Crestland 61-42, but lost to Newell-Fonda 52-29 and the Panthers.