Published Monday, February 25, 2013 at 9:48 pm / Updated at 9:55 pm
Despite loss, Bluejays have reason to cheer

DES MOINES — With 2:23 left, Villisca’s senior starters exited to an extended standing ovation from their fans.

At that point, the scoreboard didn’t matter. Showing their appreciation for their trailblazing youngsters was the only thing on their minds.

The Bluejays’ first girls state basketball appearance in 45 years also will be their last, as they will join Corning next year to become the Southwest Valley Timberwolves. Second-rated Newell-Fonda had too much depth, speed and sheer talent to extend the fairy-tale ending, pasting Villisca 75-28 Monday in a Class 1-A quarterfinal at Wells Fargo Arena.

Villisca coach Donna Williams refused to dwell on the margin, choosing to celebrate her players’ seasonlong achievements. After all, the last time the Bluejays invaded Des Moines for the girls tournament, Lyndon Johnson was president and gas was 34 cents a gallon.

“They didn’t play their best game today, but we’re very proud of them,” Williams said. “We’re a better team than this, there’s no doubt about it. We’ve played Bedford and we played so much better. But just all the excitement and things, sometimes you try too hard.”

Villisca (21-5) battled through its jitters through an even first quarter, trailing 11-10. But Newell-Fonda’s full-court defensive tenacity took over, and Villisca couldn’t handle the pressure. The Bluejays turned it over 22 times before halftime, as the Mustangs (23-2) outscored them 29-4 in the second quarter.

“They play really good man-to-man help defense,” Villisca senior Morganne Haer said. “In the Corner Conference, we never really see that. We’ve never seen that good of a man-to-man defense before, so we’ve never been able to practice against it.”

As an indication of Newell-Fonda’s talent, at one point in the second quarter, 6-footer Claudia Larsen grabbed a rebound and led the fast break herself, feeding freshman Jordan Wilken for a layup. Larsen filled the stat sheet with eight points, seven assists, six rebounds, four steals and a block. Junior Renee Maneman led the Mustangs with 15 points, six assists, four steals and four rebounds. Newell-Fonda will play No. 13 Bellevue Marquette (17-6) in Wednesday’s 8:30 p.m. semifinal.

“Once the girls settled in and started finishing, the defense and the pressure really took care of itself,” Newell-Fonda coach Dick Jungers said. “Villisca’s a very good ballclub, but today our girls played just a phenomenal game.”

For Villisca, senior Jill Vanderhoof led the way with 11 points and nine rebounds, hitting 3 of 6 from 3-point range. The Bluejays made just 9 of 39 (23.1 percent) from the field.

The clock runs continuously in Iowa when one team gets ahead by at least 35 points. That occurred with 5:36 left in the third quarter.

Williams said her players will appreciate their accomplishment more as the days and weeks go by.

“I think we’ll remember it for a long time,” she said. “Maybe not so much today, but they’ll reflect back on it. It’s a great experience to be here.”

Vanderhoof said the fan support and experience of reaching state outweigh the final score.

“We have the best support system around,” she said. “It’s amazing to be up here, and it’s an honor to play against these teams. To be one of eight teams out of the 115 that started? If you look at that, that’s just an incredible experience.”

By early Monday afternoon, it already had been a long day for the Bluejays. They were awakened by their hotel’s fire alarm at about 2:30 a.m.

Vanderhoof said her team couldn’t use that as an excuse.

“Newell-Fonda was there, too,” she said. “So it was even.”

Williams said the last two years have been emotional, as the two school districts have weighed their futures. A head coach for Southwest Valley hasn’t been chosen, but should be soon, she said. Williams hasn’t yet made it known whether she’ll seek the position.

Regardless of who’s coaching next season, senior Amanda Focht said the seniors were determined to leave the program with a lasting memory in their final flight together.

“We made it special by making it here,” she said.

Villisca (21-5) ................. 10 4 7 7—28

Newell-Fonda (23-2) ................. 11 29 22 13—75

V: Morganne Haer 1-9 1-2 3, Jill Vanderhoof 4-10 0-1 11, Mikayla Dolch 0-5 2-2 2, Amanda Focht 2-9 2-2 6, BreeAnn Fisher 0-3 2-2 2, Alexis Bronner 0-1 0-0 0, Jenny King 0-0 0-0 0, Erin Sorenson 1-1 0-0 2, Kelsey Means 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 9-39 7-9 28.

NF: Renee Maneman 7-11 0-0 15, Tailer Schrank 1-5 0-0 3, Brianna Wells 4-7 1-1 9, Claudia Larsen 3-8 2-2 8, Andrea Christensen 4-5 6-7 14, Jordan Wilken 4-8 2-2 11, Morgan Magnussen 2-3 0-0 4, Missy Morenz 0-1 0-0 0, Abby Smith 0-0 0-0 0, Jade Hess 0-3 0-0 0, Maddi Morenz 1-2 0-0 3, Hailey Falline 1-3 0-0 2, Marianna Overgaard 2-5 0-0 4, Abby Christensen 0-1 0-0 0, Haley Voss 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 30-64 11-12 75.

3-point goals: V 3-14 (Vanderhoof 3-6, Dolch 0-1, Fisher 0-2, Haer 0-5), NF 4-16 (Morenz 1-1, Maneman 1-2, Wilken 1-2, Schrank 1-3, Magnussen 0-1, Christensen 0-1, Wells 0-3, Hess 0-3). Total fouls: V 9, NF 15. Fouled out: none. Technical fouls: none. Rebounds: V 34 (Vanderhoof 9), NF 32 (Overgaard 7). Assists: V 7 (Dolch 3), NF 21 (Larsen 7). Steals: V 4 (four with 1), NF 15 (Maneman 4, Larsen 4). Turnovers: V 31, NF 10.

Contact the writer:


Contact the writer: Kevin White    |   402-290-5287    |  

Kevin White is The World-Herald's western Iowa writer, covering about 60 high schools. He's also in charge of the sports department at The Daily Nonpareil in Council Bluffs.

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