Lynx girls start NCC trek vs. No. 6 Algona

Second top-10 foe for WCHS, which will face 4 in first 6 games

Webster City junior forward Grace Hoversten buries a 3-pointer as Lynx assistant coaches Brad VanDeer and Craig Signorin watch in the background during the first half against Boone last Saturday. Hoversten averages 11.5 points and 10.5 rebounds per game entering tonight’s North Central Conference opener against sixth-ranked (Class 3A) Algona. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

WEBSTER CITY — A journey through the early-season gauntlet continues for the Webster City girls’ basketball team this evening when its faces off with its second top-10 opponent in the opening week of the campaign.

And it will actually get more challenging over the next two weeks.

The Lynx will jump into the North Central Conference deep end of the pool tonight when they host sixth-ranked (Class 3A) Algona in the league opener for both teams. The junior varsity/varsity doubleheader will begin at 6:15 p.m. The varsity clash will tip-off at approximately 7:45 p.m.

WCHS will then host seventh-ranked (2A) South Central Calhoun on Tuesday, followed by another home game against second-ranked (3A) Clear Lake seven days later.

That’s four top-10 opponents in the first six outings. In other words, head coach Nicole Muhlenbruch is going to know quite a bit about her team’s toughness long before they break for Christmas.

Webster City head coach Nicole Muhlenbruch (facing) gives instructions to her team during a timeout against Boone last Saturday. WCHS takes a 1-1 record into tonight’s clash with Algona. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

WCHS (1-1) and Algona (2-0) split their two meetings a season ago — the Lynx pulled a 50-47 upset on their home floor in the first encounter — and they feature three of the more dynamic offensive weapons in the conference. The Bulldogs are quick, explosive, and they like to shoot a lot of 3-pointers, so Muhlenbruch is well aware of the challenges her team will face.

“You want to play the best to see how you compete with the best,” she said. “We know we’re going to have to play our best to beat them, but we’re ready for it. The girls are wanting to meet that challenge and they don’t think it’s out of their reach to beat them.”

To beat Algona, the Lynx will have to slow down junior guards Abbey Holmes and Aliyah Buscher, something they didn’t do when the duo combined for 42 points in a 62-45 win over WCHS last January. Both are returning first-team all-conference players.

Holmes leads the Bulldogs in scoring at 15 points per game, while Buscher is right behind at 12.5 an outing. Throw in fellow junior Molly McCauley at 10 points a night and Algona possesses a balanced attack that can beat teams in a number of ways.

Holmes and Buscher are both threats from behind the 3-point arc, but Muhlenbruch says her team’s defense has to be ready for more than just the long ball.

“We’ve got to be careful on how we go out on them,” she said. “If you close out too strong, they dribble right by you. They’re just really good, versatile players and they like to go right to the basket too.”

It would be hard to find a player hotter at the offensive end to start the season than WCHS junior point guard Taylor McKinney, who leads 4A in scoring at 29 points per game. McKinney is coming off a 37-point outburst in a 60-47 victory over Pocahontas Area on Tuesday. She drilled 11-point baskets — a single-game school record and just one off the single-game state record.

McKinney’s 15 3-pointers are tops in the state, regardless of class, and she’s reached that point efficiently. She’s shooting 54 percent from behind the arc. She enters tonight with 99 career 3’s.

Muhlenbruch says McKinney is ready for whatever defense Algona throws her way because she’s seen them all before. Facing a scheme set up to slow her down a season ago, McKinney scored 19 and 15 points in the two meetings against Algona.

“I look for them to face guard her, which is nothing different than what we’ve faced,” Muhlenbruch said. “The other girls are going to be ready to step in and help Taylor out.”

Grace Hoversten, a junior forward, has provided WCHS with a second offensive weapon through two games. She’s averaging a double-double — 11.5 points and 10.5 rebounds — and also leads the team in steals.

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