SPIRIT LAKE - Something had to give. Ranked northwest Iowa powerhouses Storm Lake and Spirit Lake heated up the Indians' gym on a snowy Friday night, but periods of cold shooting in the first and last minutes of the game doomed the Tornadoes to a 41-28 loss.
Katie Blum's aggressive play and 10 points led Storm Lake, which suffered its first conference loss in a tight three-way race with Spirit Lake and Spencer.
The Tornadoes, playing their third ranked opponent of the week, got off to an icy start. They trailed 14-7 at the end of the first quarter as the Indians' big post standout Amber Kirschbaum poured in eight points in the first three minutes. The Indians extended the lead to 21-9 before a late Storm Lake flurry closed it to 22-16 at the half.
The Tornadoes cranked up the offensive rebounding and forced Spirit Lake into fouls, cutting the lead to 25-23 late in the third, but Kirschbaum completed a pivotal three-point play after handing Slone Masters her third foul, helping Spirit Lake to a 32-25 cushion at the end of the quarter.
Both teams struggled to break defensive pressure in the fourh quarter, neither squad scoring until the Indians broke the drought wih a free thrown at the four-minutes-remaining mark. SL, plagued by turnovers down the stretch, fell further behind as they sent a parade of Spirit Lake girls to the charity stripe.
Karissa Brown canned a long three-pointer with a minute left for Storm Lake's first fourrth-quarter points, cutting the lead to 10, but they could get no closer. Brown came off the bench to see considerable playing minutes, matching up at times against her cousin, Mary Brown, who scored 13 for the Indians.
Storm Lake's leading scorers were held in check, Slone Masters with seven points and Cassie Meylor with six. Karissa Brown added three. The Tornadoes continued to show a weakness at the free-throw line, making only three of 10 attempts. Kirschbaum led all scorers with 15.
Storm Lake came into the contest ranked 13th in Class 3A, with six straight conference wins to open the season. Spirit Lake was fifth-ranked in Class 2A, with their only loss coming to another Lakes favorite, Spencer. Storm Lake is now 7-2, as Spirit Lake improves to 7-1, 6-1 in the conference.
The teams will meet in a rematch Feb. 10 in Storm Lake to close the regular season. Storm Lake's next action is Tuesday at LeMars. They will have key games against Spencer on Jan. 24 (a makeup game on the road) and Jan. 30 at home.