#6 Sioux Center – 62, #4 Benton Community – 47

Six-seeded Sioux Center dominated around the basket, cashed in at the free throw line and is taking home a State championship as its reward, defeating four seed Benton Community 62-47 for the program’s first ever State title.

The Warriors got 17 points from Willow Bleeker and 16 from Tatum Schmalbeck in defeating Benton Community 62-47 to claim the Class 3A title. It’s the first championship for the Warriors and veteran coach Doug Winterfeld, who guided them runner-up finishes in 3A in 2017 and 2018.

Sioux Center used its size advantage to keep Benton away from the basket and built a 27-10 edge in points in the paint. The Warriors also got themselves to the free throw line, making 20 of 30, mostly because of Bleeker and Schmalbeck.

Bleeker, the all-tournament captain, made all nine of her free throws. Schmalbeck, who also made the all-tournament team, was 3-for-3.

Benton went just 4-for-10 from the line and had to rely on its 3-point shooting to try to keep it close. It worked for a while, but the Warriors’ inside play eventually made the difference. Nine of Benton’s 17 field goals and 27 of its 47 shots came from 3-point range.

Jenna Twedt led Benton with 21 points and McKenna Kramer added 15. They combined to go 7-for-19 from deep. Twedt also handed out five assists and grabbed four rebounds. The Bobcats’ Emma Townsley was the game’s top rebounder with eight and scored two points.

Sioux Center didn’t begin to gain some distance from Benton until scoring seven straight points late in the first half to go up 24-14. Townsley banked in a runner for her only points to cut the lead to 24-16 at halftime, but Bleeker and Makenna Walhof, who finished with nine points, each scored to start the second half to put the Warriors up 28-16.

The lead fell below double figures only twice after the Warriors led by as many as 16 as they continued to get to the basket and make free throws.

Sioux Center closes its memorable season with a 21-5 record. Four of those losses were to tournament qualifiers. Benton, which had been winless in four state tournament games before this year, closes with a 23-4 record.

Twedt and Kramer also made the all-tournament team along with Solon’s Hailey Miller and Vinton-Shellsburg’s Alyssa Griffith.


#2 Newell-Fonda – 66, #3 North Linn – 48

Newell-Fonda will end its season in a familiar spot against a familiar opponent.

Mary Walker scored 24 points and Kierra Jungers added 19 and 10 rebounds as the Mustangs pulled away in the second half to beat North Linn 66-48 and reach the Class 1A championship game for the fourth time in five years.

Their opponent: Algona Bishop Garrigan, the defending champion and the team Newell-Fonda defeated in the 2020 and 2021 title games. Bishop Garrigan advanced with a 73-39 romp past Remsen St. Mary’s behind 26 points from Audi Crooks.

They’ll meet at 7 p.m. Saturday to conclude the 2023 girls basketball season. Newell-Fonda, improving to 24-2, also won the title in 2019 and 2015. The Mustangs lost in the semifinals last year.

Kamryn Kurt led North Linn with 16 points, Ellie Flanagan scored 15 on 5-for-7 3-point shooting and Macy Boge scored 11 and handed out four assists.

Newell-Fonda usually harasses teams into submission with its depth and full-court pressure. North Linn handled that pressure better than most but couldn’t keep the Mustangs off the boards. Newell-Fonda piled up a 40-23 rebounding advantage with 17 offensive rebounds, which led to a 21-2 edge in second-chance points.

North Linn’s 6-for-12 3-point shooting helped the Lynx hold Newell-Fonda to a 28-all tie at halftime and they pulled ahead 33-30 on Boge’s 3 and Kurt’s driving layup. Newell-Fonda kept pushing the pace, however, and finally got it to the Mustangs’ liking, reeling off a 14-2 run that produced a 44-35 lead.

North Linn never got closer than six points after that and Newell-Fonda steadily built on its cushion, outscoring the Lynx 22-11 in the fourth quarter to win going away. The Mustangs shot 67 percent in the final period (8-of-12) and ended up at 44.8 percent for the game.

Walker made 9-of-17 shots and added seven rebounds and two steals to her line. Jungers complemented her play around the basket by knocking down three 3-pointers and blocked two shots.

North Linn, the Class 2A champion in 2020, finishes 23-2, its 13th straight season with at least 20 victories and fifth straight appearance at state.

The victory was Newell-Fonda’s 30th in state tournament play, which ranks fourth on the all-time list, one behind Mediapolis and West Des Moines Dowling Catholic. Ankeny is the leader with 43 state tournament wins.