Lynx hang on to beat Tornadoes in 4A?regional quarters

Webster City freshman Taylor McKinney (left) picks the pocket of Storm Lake forward Jenna Neumann during the first half last night. McKinney scored 15 points in the Lynx 58-50 win over the Tornadoes. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

WEBSTER CITY — A 14-point lead was down to a single bucket with just 59 seconds left and the first thought easily could have been to panic.

The truth is, Webster City probably doesn’t respond and win the game two months ago. But the growth it has shown over the last 22 ballgames revealed itself over those final nail-biting seconds last night.

With its lead evaporating before its eyes and the season hanging in the balance, WCHS responded by knocking down six straight free throws to recover and fend off Storm Lake, 58-50, in a Class 4A Region 2 quarterfinal.

Freshman Taylor McKinney hit nothing but net on four consecutive freebies and Nicole Sweazey put the game on ice with two more with 18 ticks left to send the Lynx (7-15) into Saturday’s regional semifinal against second-ranked Nevada (20-1).

“That’s what we’ve been hoping for for a while,” WCHS head coach Nicole Muhlenbruch said of the clutch performance late. “When you get in those situations, you hope the kids will hold their composure. They just looked confident.”

WCHS junior Halle Mason (10) battles Storm Lake freshman Nya Malout (41) for a first-half rebound last night. Mason scored six points in a 58-50 victory. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

It was a big sigh of relief after Storm Lake (3-19) went on a 14-4 run to pull within 52-50 as the clock dipped under one minute. The Tornadoes turned up the defensive pressure and scored in transition, and they also relied on their mountainous rebounding advantage to score a pile of second-chance points.

Storm Lake owned a 44-24 edge on the glass and 21 of its caroms came at the offensive end. The Tornadoes held a significant height advantage and without the rebounds they wouldn’t have been in the same zip code.

“We’re obviously going to work on (the rebounding) because we’re expecting it to be the same situation with Nevada,” Muhlenbruch said. “But when you have such a height disadvantage, you can only do so much when they’re coming over the top of you.”

McKinney, Haley Flaws and Cassidy Nerland combined to score 42 of the Lynx points.

After pouring in a career-high 18 points in the regular season finale against South Hardin last week, Flaws was a weapon again with a game-high 17. She had eight in the first half and scored five in succession early in the third quarter to push WCHS in front 28-15. She had 15 by the end of the third quarter, as the Lynx took a 41-31 cushion into the final period.

WCHS guard Haley Flaws drives to the bucket for two of her game-high 17 points during the third quarter of last night’s 58-50 Class 4A regional win over Storm Lake. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

“She is playing excellent right now and I’m very pleased for her and I’m happy for the team that she’s doing that,” Muhlenbruch said of Flaws. “Now we have another weapon in our arsenal.”

McKinney did the majority of her damage at the charity stripe where she knocked down 9 of 10 attempts. WCHS outscored Storm Lake 16-6 at the free throw line and made all eight of its second-half chances.

Halle Mason added a pair of 3-pointers for six points, the second coming from the left wing to up the Lynx lead to its biggest margin of 14 points, 39-25, with 50 seconds left in the third quarter. Sweazey added five points despite having to sit for significant chunks of time because of foul trouble.

Nerland (nine) and Mason (six) combined to snare 15 rebounds. McKinney distributed five assists, and Sarah Vogelbacher collected two steals to go along with five points.

Rachel Bozonie led Storm Lake with nine points. Pasha Nyewe finished with eight, while Jenna Neumann and Nya Malout scored seven each.

Webster City junior forward Cassidy Nerland (right) takes the ball away from Storm Lake’s Nya Malout during the first half last night. Nerland scored 10 points and had nine rebounds. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

WCHS took control with a 9-2 spurt over the final 31⁄2 minutes of the first quarter to move in front 14-6. Storm Lake closed to within two points in the second, but a 3 from the corner by Mason ignited a 7-0 Lynx flurry over the final two minutes of the half.

Muhlenbruch and her players are fully aware of the type of challenge they will face against Nevada on the Cubs’ home floor. Nevada — the 2015 3A state champion and 2016 3A state runner-up — has won 20 consecutive games after it opened the campaign with a loss to 13th-ranked Boone.

“We know we’re the underdog, but underdogs have beaten ranked teams before,” Muhlenbruch said. “We wanted to play them to see how we match up. We’re not going to back down.”

Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Webster City 58, Storm Lake 50

DFJ photo/Troy Banning

Class 4A Region 2 Quarterfinal

Thursday at Webster City

Storm Lake (3-19) — Brianna Soto 2 0-0 5, Kaylee Oehler 1 0-0 3, Ariel Bozonie 2 1-2 5, Pasha Nyewe 3 2-3 8, Jenna Neumann 3 1-3 7, Rachel Bozonie 4 1-2 9, Tasilia Yanga 2 0-0 4, Nyathal Deng 1 0-0 2, Nya Malout 3 1-2 7. Totals: 21 6-12 50.

Webster City (7-15) — Haley Flaws 6 4-5 17, Taylor McKinney 3 9-10 15, Halle Mason 2 0-0 6, Rihanna Wood 0 0-0 0, Nicole Sweazey 1 3-4 5, Sarah Vogelbacher 2 0-2 5, Devyn VanKooten 0 0-0 0, Cassidy Nerland 5 0-0 10. Totals: 19 16-22 58.

Storm Lake 6 9 16 19 — 50

Webster City 14 9 18 17 — 58

3-point field goals — SL 2 (Soto, Oehler); WC 4 (Mason 2, Flaws, Vogelbacher). Rebounds — WC 24 (Nerland 9, Mason 6). Steals — WC 5 (Vogelbacher 2). Assists — WC 10 (McKinney 5). Team fouls — SL 21, WC 11. Fouled out — SL: Soto.