WCHS girls reverse roles, press Indians into submission
McKinney catches fire, scores 18 of her 22 points in second half in Lynx 23-point win
WEBSTER CITY — Nicole Muhlenbruch wouldn’t take the bait. She wouldn’t even nibble around the edges.
The Webster City head girls’ basketball coach remained stoic as she talked about her team’s 49-26 throttling of Pocahontas Area Tuesday night inside the WCHS gymnasium. There was no smile, no quick grin, not even a momentary tick at the edges of her mouth.
But after what WCHS and the rest of the state has endured at the hands of the Indians in recent years, it had to feel good, right?
“Yeah, but I wanted the one Saturday night, too,” Muhlenbruch quickly shot back, referring to the Lynx 45-40 loss to seventh-ranked (Class 4A) Boone in its season opener. “I want to get them all.”
She’ll settle for this one right now though.
Yeah, it was satisfying to beat Pocahontas Area, but it’s not the same team that put together a staggering 79-3 record with a pair of 3A state championships and a runner-up finish over the past three seasons. Elle Ruffridge, the poster girl for basketball in the state now and maybe forever, is off playing in college and the Indians are beginning a new chapter.
WCHS (1-1) became the first team not named Nevada to top PAC since Jan. 9, 2015, by beating the Indians at their own game. Long known for its menacing full-court pressure defense — the fun and gun style that led to three wins over WCHS by an average of 47 points over the last three years — PAC had the tables turned by the Lynx, who forced 20 turnovers while committing just nine.
Muhlenbruch sicked her attack dogs on PAC early in the second quarter and the dividends were immediate. WCHS turned what had been a tie game into a six-point halftime lead, 22-16.
“We needed to do something to open up the game and we’d talked in practice about pressing them,” Muhlenbruch said. “That got us out of being a little lethargic.”
Baskets in transition were exactly what the Lynx needed, as they struggled with their shot in the first half. Had they been in a boat, they might not have been able to hit water and they entered the break shooting just 21 percent (7 of 33).
And then Taylor McKinney took over.
The Lynx sophomore point guard, who sat for 3 1⁄2 minutes of the second quarter with two fouls, found her touch from the perimeter and rattled in a pair of 3-pointers in the third quarter. She accounted for 13 of her team’s 15 points during the period and propelled the WCHS lead to 15 points, 37-22.
McKinney started the game 0 of 6 from behind the arc, but she didn’t quit shooting. By the time she exited the floor for good, she’d rained in a game-high 22 points, 18 of them coming in the second half.
“I looked at her (at halftime) and told her that they’ll start falling,” Muhlenbruch said of McKinney, who was 6 of 6 from inside the arc. “I tell all the kids that you’ve got to keep shooting because it could be the last shot you don’t take that decides the game.”
A corner 3 from Halle Mason followed by a mid-range jumper from Cassidy Nerland early in the fourth quarter extended the WCHS lead to 20 points, 44-24. The cushion reached 25 points before Muhlenbruch cleared her bench with 3:40 remaining.
WCHS outscored PAC 25-10 over the final 16 minutes and Muhlenbruch credited her team’s defensive effort for changing the contest.
“Our shots just weren’t falling and so I told them that we’re going to need to win this game defensively and that’s when we needed to step it up,” she said.
Nerland cranked out her second double-double in as many games with 10 points and 12 rebounds. Grace Hoversten came off the bench to yank down seven boards and Mason added six more. McKinney distributed two assists and collected two steals, as did Nerland and Haley Flaws.
Sarah Vogelbacher canned a pair of early 3s for six points. Flaws and Zoey Woodle both tacked on four points.
WCHS finished 18 of 60 (30 percent) from the floor and forced PAC into an 11 of 48 (23 percent) night. The Indians made just 2 of 23 3-point attempts.
Elizabeth Ricke scored 10 points to lead PAC. Leah Aljets chipped in nine points.
WCHS will face a tough North Central Conference opener on Friday when it travels east to take on Iowa Falls-Alden (2-1) at 7:45 p.m. The girls’ junior varsity game will tip-off at 6:15 p.m.
Webster City 49, Pocah. Area 26
Tuesday at Webster City
Pocahontas Area (1-1) — Annika Duitscher 0 0-0 0, Jordan Saunders 0 0-0 0, Sarah Powers 1 0-0 2, Jocelyn Johnson 0 0-0 0, Taylor Johnson 0 0-0 0, Leah Aljets 3 2-2 9, Delaney Ehn 1 0-0 2, Jill Vonnahme 1 0-0 3, Elizabeth Ricke 5 0-0 10. Totals: 11 2-2 26.
Webster City (1-1) — Haley Flaws 2 0-0 4, Taylor McKinney 9 1-1 22, Halle Mason 1 0-0 3, Sarah Vogelbacher 2 0-0 6, Atlanta Hopp 0 0-0 0, Zoey Woodle 1 2-2 4, Tatum Goings 0 0-0 0, Stacey Meyer 0 0-0 0, Grace Hoversten 0 0-0 0, Adalie Schwandt 0 0-0 0, Cassidy Nerland 3 4-7 10. Totals: 18 7-10 49.
Pocah Area 10 6 6 4 — 26
Webster City 12 10 15 13 — 49
3-point field goals — PAC 2 (Aljets, Vonnahme); WC 6 (McKinney 3, Vogelbacher 2, Mason). Rebounds — WC 37 (Nerland 12, Hoversten 7, Mason 6). Steals — WC 8 (Flaws 2, McKinney 2, Nerland 2). Assists — WC 3 (McKinney 2). Turnovers — WC 9, PAC 20. Team fouls — PAC 11, WC 10. Fouled out — none.