WEBSTER CITY - Just one win away from having the North Central Conference championship all to itself, the sixth-ranked (Class 3A) Webster City boys' basketball team will have to chop down its biggest nemesis tonight if it wants to clinch the title outright.
Algona 6-foot-5 senior forward Sam Lipps gave Webster City (16-2, 16-0 NCC) fits when the two teams met earlier this season, and he'll try to do the same tonight when the Lynx and Bulldogs (10-9, 7-9 NCC) resume their rivalry at 7:45 p.m.
The girls' game will open the festivities at 6:15 p.m.
DFJ photo by Troy Banning
WCHS senior guard Garrett Gourley (right) tries to cut off the baseline against Algona back in December. The Lynx and Bulldogs will meet again tonight.
Lipps, the third leading scorer (18.1 points per game) and top rebounder (8.8) in the league, had the nets sizzling inside Jeff Gym on Dec. 9 when he went off for 27 points, and his efforts almost derailed Webster City's plan of an unbeaten conference season when it was still in its infancy.
Trailing by as many as 11 points in the second half, the Lynx rallied to beat Algona in overtime, 51-48, but WCHS head coach Marty McKinney hasn't forgotten how stressful that earlier encounter was, and he's made sure his players haven't forgotten it either.
"Lipps is probably the toughest match-up of anybody that we play, and I'm sure we'll get his best game (tonight)," McKinney said. "He's a great player and it's going to be a tough game for us."
Lipps made 11 of 18 shots, including 4 of 7 from behind the 3-point arc, in the first meeting. His greatest strength may be his versatility, which is why McKinney says multiple defenders may get a crack at trying to shut him down tonight.
"If you put a post on him he's going to take them outside, and then when you put a guard on him he's going to post up, so it's difficult," McKinney said.
Senior guard Jonny Davis - all 6-1 of him - will tackle the challenge of limiting Lipps. Davis has had success against taller players in the past - he limited 6-7 Casey Schlatter of Iowa Falls-Alden to single digits in two games - but Lipps got the better of the match-up the first time when he poured in 17 on Davis in the first half.
"We'll start with Jon, but we're also going to have to play some bigs on him," McKinney said. "The key is we have to make sure we have help for Jon in the post."
Davis, who is fourth in the conference in scoring (15.1) and first in assists (5.8), has been a thorn in the side of Algona, too. He scored 22 points back in December and hit the game-tying shot from 15 feet out in the final seconds of regulation. He's coming off a 27-point performance against Clear Lake on Tuesday, a game the Lynx won in double-overtime, 64-58.
The availability of senior forward Bryan Swon (10.3 ppg) is still up in the air, McKinney says. He sat out against Clear Lake because he wasn't cleared medically.
Swon has been given the go-ahead to play tonight, but McKinney can't say how much court time his three-year starter will see.
"He's going to be pretty limited," McKinney said. "That just means that everybody else has to step up and increase their production. We've got guys that are capable of stepping up."
Senior forward Andrew May - he's second on the team and ninth in the NCC in scoring (12.8) - had a monster effort on Tuesday. He notched 23 points in the win over Clear Lake.
McKinney expects yet another close battle, and if it is don't expect the Lynx to blink. Five of their conference wins have been by five points or less and eight have been by single-digit totals.
What's their secret? McKinney thinks it's all about effort.
"I don't think it's magic or something you can teach," he said. "These kids are all athletes, and it's mental toughness and expecting to win. We don't quit and we don't crack."