COUNCIL BLUFFS — With a potential state tournament berth only two games away, Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln turned up the pressure on Council Bluffs Thomas Jefferson.
The Lynx (16-7) used a full-court press to stifle their crosstown rivals early in a 60-11 win in their Class 5-A regional semifinal Saturday night. A.L. advances to Tuesday night’s regional final against West Des Moines Dowling.
“We wanted to put some pressure, trap when we could, and that set the tone,” Lynx coach Chad Schaa said.
Constant pressure by the home team forced 10 turnovers by the young Yellow Jackets in the first quarter alone. The Lynx converted the takeaways into the first 18 points of the game.
The Yellow Jackets (0-21) were scoreless until Rachel O’Neal hit a free throw with 2 minutes left in the first quarter, following T.J.’s first field-goal attempt.
“We’ve struggled against pressure all year,” said first-year T.J. coach Rich Bartholomew. “I’ve watched game film, and we’re improving. It might be hard to see, but we are.”
Even as the high-pressure defense eased up as the game progressed, the Lynx held T.J. to just five made baskets, with none in the fourth quarter.
In contrast, A.L.’s offense clicked early, as the Lynx rushed out to a 25-3 lead at the end of the first quarter. They extended it to 43-7 by halftime before slowing down in the second half.
With only one senior and three juniors on the roster, T.J. will return a youthful team next season — one that will have another season of varsity basketball under its belt.
After a summer of basketball camps and another year under the new coach’s system, Bartholomew expects to see an improved Jackets squad next winter.
“I commend my girls for coming back after many sound beatings,” he said. “This is part of the process — and this part of the process hurts.”
Now standing between A.L. and its first state berth since 2003 is No. 8 Dowling (19-3). The Maroons defeated Des Moines Roosevelt 62-26 Saturday to set up Tuesday night’s showdown at Des Moines Hoover for a spot in the state tournament.
“That’d be phenomenal for our group,” Schaa said. “I’ve coached these seniors since seventh grade, and we’ve always talked about that goal.”
CB Abraham Lincoln (16-7) ................. 25 18 10 7—60
CB Thomas Jefferson (0-21) ................. 3 4 4 0—11
CBTJ: Rachel O’Neal 3, LaKendra Black 4, Mistie Kackley 2, Jami Miedl 2.
CBAL: Ali Heithoff 2, Alexa Murphy 2, Maddy Rief 12, Delaney Bolton 15, Lauren Meeker 10, Taylor Volentine 4, Olivia Leisinger 12, Kelsey Johnson 2, Autumn Bettcher 1.