GARNER - Will the third time be the charm?
The Class 3A No. 3 Estherville Lincoln Central girls will get to discover the answer to the question as the Midgets qualified for the state tournament for the third straight year after dismantling 10th-ranked Nevada, 62-31 in the regional finals on Saturday.
For the second year in a row, the Midgets (2-13) will face a Lakes Conference opponent in the first round-this time it's Spirit Lake (16-8). The ELC/Spirit Lake game will be at 5 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 26 at Wells Fargo Arena.
The Estherville Lincoln Central Girls Basketball Team heads to the state tournament for the third straight year. ELC opens the tournament against rival Spirit Lake at 5 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 26.
The Indians defeated Garner-Hayfield/Ventura 51-37 on Saturday.
ELC's six seniors were looking forward to trying to get back to the state championship following their win over Nevada.
"I'm excited and I hope we can get the championship trophy this time," said ELC guard Macy Dahl.
On the other side of the ELC/Spirit Lake game are second-ranked MOC-Floyd Valley (23-1) and 13th-ranked Mid Prairie (18-7). The Dutch defeated ELC early in the season. The semifinal game for that quartet is 5 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 28.
The other two first-round Class 3A matchups are top-ranked Davenport Assumption versus unranked Red Oak and fifth-ranked Bondurant Farrar vs. fourth-ranked Cascade. Those winners will play at 3:15 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 28.
The championship game is 8 p.m., Friday, March 1.
"I'm excited," said post player Allie Sievert. "Like Emily (Kirchner) said, 'the third time's the charm.'"
It's awesome," said point guard Sara Heywood. "this being our senior year makes it that much more special."
A young Nevada team, with just one senior, stayed with the Midgets for about the first 10 minutes. The Bubs led 4-2 after a 3-pointer by Megan Pringnitz and then 7-4 when she hit her second 3-pointer.
But ELC's Maggie McCauley answered with a trey of her own to tie the game. Two free throws by Kirchner and another by Casey Sievert gave the Midgets a 10-7 lead after one quarter.
The Cubs battled early in the second quarter, tying the game at 12-12 on a three-point play by freshman Katie Cassabaum.
But McCauley hit another 3-pointer and shortly thereafter Cassabaum picked up her third foul of the first half and went to the bench. ELC led 17-13 at the point and the Midgets went on a 19-1 run to end the period, which included a 3-pointer by Dahl. However most of the damage was done by Kirchner who the Cubs had no answer for in the block. Kirchner finished the first half with 20 points while making 12-of-12 free throws.
Kirchner, a 68 percent free throw who struggled at the line the first two games, said," I just got it together for this game."
Casey Sievert said the team's focus for the game was putting pressure on Nevada and Making them uncomfortable.
"We also wanted to take advantage of our inside game," she said.
As usual, Dahl had the responsibility of defending the opponent's best guard Nevada's leading scorer Jessica Helton.
"I came in knowing had had to play good because they're a good shooting team," Dahl said. "On offense we just had to relax because we knew they like to pressure the ball."
In the second half, the Cubs attempted to shift from a man defense to zone to try to slow ELC down inside.
Allie Sievert, who had just two points in the first half, responded with back-to-back baseline jumpers early in the third quarter and then drove to the basket where she was fouled. Allie scored 12 of her 14 points in the third period, which ended on a 3-pointer by Casey Sievert at the buzzer as ELC led 58-23.
With a running clock via the mercy rule in the fourth quarter, ELC coach Tony Klein began emptying his bench midway through the period.
Kirchner finished with 21 points,, Casey Sievert had 10, Dahl had seven, McCauley had six and Heywood had four.