Mar. 3—DES MOINES — The grandest stage of high school basketball had no effect on No. 4 Nodaway Valley Tuesday night as the Wolverines came out of the gates on fire en route to a 53-47 win over returning Class 2A state champion No. 5 North Linn in the opening round of play.
Nodaway Valley kept the focus on themselves walking into the first state tournament in program history. The pregame remained the same, the focus remained the same and the result remained the same for the Wolverines' 24th win of the season, advancing them to the state semifinals.
The trio of Macy Kuhns, Maddax DeVault and Lindsey Davis said everything lined up to make the biggest game in the program's history feel like it was just another night.
"I think we were more excited than nervous, I would say," senior Lexi Shike said. "We just wanted to come in and do what we could do. We've been practicing really hard and focusing on what we can control coming up to this."
The familiar feeling fueled Nodaway Valley's hot start, marking the fourth straight game the Wolverines have led big in the first quarter.
Tuesday, Davis started the game off with a layup, and after one score the other way resulting in the only tie of the game, Davis knocked down a 3-pointer from the wing to give Nodaway Valley a lead it never surrendered.
"We had some really good days of practice. That was the thing. After like almost a full week off, we didn't know what to expect," Nodaway Valley head coach Brian Eisbach said. "But, at the same time, it's lose and go home. We had some really focused up practices. The girls, I thought, spent a little more attention to detail on the scouting report, because it was big and long."
Nodaway Valley's defense forced five turnovers in the first six possessions, with Corinne Bond recording a block on a layup. North Linn ended the night with 24 turnovers.
The Wolverines extended the lead to 17-7 at the end of the first quarter behind four 3-pointers. DeVault and Davis split the four threes, but North Linn started to make adjustments on both sides of the ball.
The Lynx rallied throughout the second quarter, forcing the ball inside and capitalizing off Wolverine turnovers, totaling 12 points in the first half. Nodaway Valley gave up the ball eight times in the second half, allowing one point.
With North Linn cutting the lead to 10 points with less than three minutes remaining in the first half, Nodaway Valley started to make its way to the free-throw line. The Wolverines went to the charity stripe on three consecutive possessions, knocking down 3 of 6.
North Linn finished the second quarter on a 7-1 run as the pick-and-roll became effective. Despite the late rally, Nodaway Valley held a 28-22 lead into the break as the Lynx struggled from deep throughout the first half.
Entering the night, North Linn was shooting 40% from the 3-point line. Nodaway Valley held the Lynx to 0-for-5 in the first half and 2-for-15 on the night, 13%.
"We knew they were going to go on runs. That's a heck of a shooting team," Eisbach said. "You can't leave one of those kids open, and they picked us apart a bit. We got a nice compliment from (North Linn) coach Nate Sanderson. He said that's the best defense that he's seen us play. I kind of beg to differ, maybe at times (it was), but that was the first time all season, other than Panorama, (a team) had that many shooters."
With the Wolverines slowing down at the end of the first half, they opened the second half the way they started the game, hot.
Davis hit a corner three, Bond blocked a shot and DeVault drilled another 3-pointer to go up 34-23 with 5:35 left in the third quarter. North Linn continued to hang around as the offensive rebounding gave the Lynx second-chance opportunities.
North Linn capitalized for seven points off 16 offensive rebounds.
"We got out rebounded 42-30. That's not good," Eisbach said. "That's actually surprising with the way everything ended."
With multiple chances on the glass, North Linn slowed down the fast-paced Wolverines, cutting the game to within five points in the fourth quarter, but Nodaway Valley continued to find a way to keep the Lynx at bay.
A 58.1% free-throw shooting team entering Tuesday, Nodaway Valley finished the game 10-for-13 from the line in the fourth quarter and 15-for-23 in the game. Davis was 5-for-6 in the fourth quarter and 9-for-10 on the night as she scored a game-high 20 points.
The win marks another milestone for the team that has built itself around not wanting the dream season to end, putting the three seniors out on top.
"These kids don't want to go home, and I couldn't be any prouder of them," Eisbach said. "I don't want to say we're going to win the whole damn thing, but it's one game at a time. Obviously, Maquoketa Valley is an amazing team, but yeah, we'll see what happens."
UP NEXT — Nodaway Valley takes on No. 1 Maquoketa Valley Friday at 10 a.m. in the Wells Fargo Arena.
Nodaway Valley 53, North Linn 47
NORTH LINN (47) — (FG FT PTS) Totals — 18 9-18 37. Kamryn Kurt 6 4-5 16, Ellie Ware 5 2-8 12, Chloe VanEtten 3 2-3 8, Ellie Flanagan 3 0-0 8, Ella Ries 1 0-0 2, Macy Boge 0 1-2 1. 3-point goals — 2 (Flanagan 2). Team fouls — 14. Fouled out — None.
NODAWAY VALLEY (53) — (FG FT PTS) Totals — 16 15-23 53. Lindsey Davis 4 9-10 20, Maddax DeVault 6 2-7 17, Corinne Bond 3 3-4 9, Lexi Shike 3 1-2 7. 3-point goals — 6 (DeVault 3, Davis 3). Team fouls — 12. Fouled out — None.