DES MOINES, IOWA – #1 Estherville-Lincoln Central entered the 2023 IGHSAU Girls Basketball State Tournament as the defending 3A champs and a perfect record, but both would come to an end to #8 Vinton-Shellsburg in the 3A Quarterfinals, falling to the Vikettes 54-46 on Monday evening at the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
The eighth-seeded Vikettes overcame a terrible start to knock off top-seeded Estherville-Lincoln Central 54-46 in the 3A tournament opener, ending ELC’s state-leading winning streak at 38 games.
Vinton-Shellsburg trailed 14-2 after shooting 1-for-13 in the first quarter, but turned things around and outscored ELC 25-11 in the fourth quarter to pull out the victory over the defending champs with some tough defense and steady free throw shooting down the stretch.
Alyssa Griffith led the Vikettes with 17 points and 10 rebounds, while Ashlie Meyer added 12 points and five assists. Griffith made 9-of-12 free throws, Meyer went 8-for-10 at the line and Abby Davis was 4-for-4 while scoring 11 points as Vinton-Shellsburg won its first state tournament game since beating Washington 72-53 in the 1996 3A semifinals.
Hillary Ruschy scored 11 points off the bench and grabbed six rebounds to lead Estherville-Lincoln Central, which lost for the first time since a 59-48 setback to Newell-Fonda on Jan. 13, 2022. Sophomore Haylee Stokes, the focus of the Vikettes’ defense, scored 10 points on 3-for-16 shooting, well below her 21-point average. Jordyn Stokes also scored 10 for ELC.
Vinton-Shellsburg ended the first half with an 8-2 run to trail 20-16 at the break, fell behind by 10 points early in the third quarter, then began chopping away at the lead.
The Vikettes pulled to within three points five times before finally edging ahead with a 7-0 run that Meyer finished with a pair free throws for a 41-37 lead. ELC tied it twice after that but never regained the lead.
After Ruschy’s 3-pointer drew ELC to 47-46 with 50 seconds remaining, Davis dropped in two free throws to make it a three-point game. The Vikettes got the ball right back on an errant pass and finished it off with more free throws, Griffith making 5-of-6 while the Vikettes kept ELC scoreless.
Vinton-Shellsburg finished 24-of-32 at the line. Estherville-Lincoln Central was just 11-for-24 and shot 32 percent from the field.
Vinton-Shellsburg, in the tournament for the first time since 1999, takes an 18-7 record into a semifinal at 1:30 p.m. Thursday. ELC finishes another outstanding season with a 24-1 record and hopes of getting back to state. Only two of the team’s 13 players are seniors