Lynx open regional against Tornadoes tonight

Webster City junior forward Grave Hoversten (34) looks to score off an offensive rebound against Hampton-Dumont earlier this season. She enters the postseason averaging 6.9 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

WEBSTER CITY — With the weather forecast what it was, Webster City head girls’ basketball coach Nicole Muhlenbruch called for the rare Sunday practice several days ago.

What did her players say to that request? No problem.

And when Muhlenbruch then threw out the idea for a 6 a.m. practice Monday morning, how did her players respond to that? Again, no problem.

What does all of that mean? For starters, the Lynx are locked in on the postseason and their chances of advancement. They haven’t been beaten down by a rigorous regular season either.

WCHS (7-13) will begin Class 4A Region 1 play with a quarterfinal-round home game against Storm Lake (3-17) this evening at 7 p.m. The winner will advance to Saturday’s semifinals where eighth-ranked Sioux City Heelan (15-5) awaits to host on its home floor.

WCHS freshman Kelly Stoakes (24) takes a 3-pointer from the wing against CGD in December. She has made 16 3s, the second-most on the team behind Taylor McKinney (50) this season. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

“We want to make that long trip to Sioux City,” Muhlenbruch said when asked about her team’s mindset entering the second season. “The girls are ready to go.”

Muhlenbruch knows that tonight is a winnable game against the Tornadoes, but she also knows that the Lynx can take nothing for granted. Storm Lake enters with five consecutive losses and nine setbacks in its last 10 outings, but WCHS can’t simply roll the balls out and breeze to victory.

“They’ve got some good players,” Muhlenbruch said of the Tornadoes. “(Senior Rachel Bozonie) is a good, solid player. She likes to shoot from the outside and can attack the basket as well. “(Sophomore Mary Yanga) attacks the basket as well on the baseline and is a strong shooter.

“They’re aggressive, they’re not tentative at all.”

Bozonie leads the Tornadoes in scoring at 11.9 points per game, and Yanga is right behind at 7.8. They’re also Nos. 2 and 3 on the team in rebounding.

Storm Lake’s Achille’s heel is turnovers, however. The Tornadoes have amassed 422 on the season, an average of 21.1 per game. The mistakes have led to a low-scoring output, just 36.3 a night.

At first glance, it would appear that pressure defense by WCHS would be in order, but Muhlenbruch says that’s not necessarily true.

“As we watched them on tape, they handle the press fairly well,” she said. “It seems like they’re like us where they can break the press, but as soon as they get it into the half-court, that’s where they turn the ball over.”

Muhlenbruch expects Storm Lake to sit in a 2-3 zone defensive and force WCHS to beat it from the perimeter. That could play right into the strengths of junior sharpshooter Taylor McKinney, who averages 16.9 points per game. McKinney is the program’s all-time leading scorer and all-time leader in 3-point field goals.

“I would say 95 percent of the time they play a 2-3 zone,” Muhlenbruch said. “That’s what we’ve been preparing for.”

Grace Hoversten (6.9 points per game) is also capable of knocking down 3s for the Lynx, as is freshman reserve Kelly Stoakes (3.2 points per game).

WCHS is certainly battle-tested for the postseason. Of its 13 losses, 10 have come against teams that were ranked at the time. The Lynx have seven setbacks at the hands of opponents currently ranked in the top 10.