No. 2 Indians bury Norse, 72-33

WEBSTER CITY – Elle Ruffridge sat on the bench and dreamed the last time the Pocahontas Area girls’ basketball team suited up and took the floor at the state tournament.

She was just a kindergartner back then, a tiny little girl who hoped her day would eventually come.

She’s still tiny, but that dream has now become reality.

The diminutive all-state point guard poured in 25 points, dished out eight assists and collected six steals in a 72-33 romp past Roland-Story in the Class 3A Region 7 final Saturday night inside the Webster City High School gymnasium, as second-ranked Pocahontas Area secured its spot in the state tournament for the first time since 2005.

“I’m speechless right now,” Ruffridge said after a fifth round of hugs with teammates. “It’s unbelievable that I’m experiencing this with this team.”

Winners of 15 consecutive games, Pocahontas Area (23-1) whipped its three regional opponents by an average of 40.3 points. Yes, the Indians can wear out a scoreboard and, yes, Ruffridge – the leading scorer in 3A at 27 points an outing – gets the lion’s share of the credit, but it’s their relentless defense that has led to the lopsided scores.

Roland-Story (12-12) had no chance against the full-court pressure applied by Pocahontas Area, which finished with 20 steals. It took just four minutes for the Indians to turn the contest into a track meet and from there the Indians could have named their score.

“Our defense is honestly what we spend most of the time talking about,” Pocahontas Area head coach Robert Maske said. “The press, the trap, the half-court set, they allow us to get the pace that we want. Our girls trust the defensive calls and they go hard on them. When we do that we can get the tempo pretty much set the way we want.”

An 18-0 run that spanned seven minutes of game time in the first and second quarters pushed Pocahontas Area’s advantage to double digits for good. The lead reached 20, 35-15, on a pair of free throws by Brooke Runneberg with one second remaining in the second quarter.

Ruffridge never let her foot off the accelerator following the intermission either. She buried three of her five 3-pointers and scored 12 points during the initial four minutes of the third quarter to up the cushion to 52-22.

Rose Meyer followed with back-to-back buckets, part of a 25-7 surge that started the running clock before the third period was over.

Meyer, one of only three seniors on the team, finished with 14 points, five assists and three steals. Younger sisters Grace and Faith Meyer chipped in eight and four points, respectively. The twins also combined for seven steals.

Runneberg, another of the seniors, added eight points and a game-high 10 rebounds.

“This has been a whole team effort,” Rose Meyer said. “All summer we worked hard and we visualized going to state, so it’s awesome. Now we just have to keep pushing forward.”

Maske agreed.

“Our goal definitely was to get to this spot, but we have another one that is already set,” he said.

The state’s 3-point leader with 216 entering the game, Pocahontas Area cashed in on eight more. Grace Meyer drained two and Ashlyn Weidauer canned one in the second half.

Taylor Olson led Roland-Story with eight points and Hannah Patton registered seven.

The Indians will face Clear Lake (18-6) in a state tournament quarterfinal on Tuesday, March 3, at 5 p.m., at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.