Courier sports staff
Prior to Monday night, head coach Justin Nolte was still looking to coach his Twin Cedars girls basketball team in a game with a state tournament berth on the line.
The Sabers coach got his chance against upstart Earlham in the Class 1A, Region 6 finals. Getting the chance to coach Twin Cedars at the girls state basketball tournament, however, will have to wait for another year.
Coming off a 54-48 upset of previous unbeaten sixth-ranked Adair-Casey on Friday, the Cardinals clinched a surprising berth in the Class 1A state tourney Monday at Interstate 35 High School. Earlham opened a working 37-29 margin and pulled away in the second half, leading by 20 late in the third quarter before closing out a 79-55 win over Twin Cedars.
The Cardinals were tough to stop early on, scoring 21 points in the opening quarter for a 21-12 lead on the Sabers. After pulling within eight at the breat, Earlham put away the win with 23 points in the third quarter to open a 60-40 lead.
The continues a resurgent run for Earlham, who have won nine of their last 10 games since a three-game skid sunk the Cardinals below .500. Head coach Kristin Sheffield’s squad will enter the state tourney at 16-9 and will open play in the 1A state quarterfinals against Central Lyon (23-2) at 3:15 p.m. Monday afternoon at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
The Sabers’ deepest postseason run concluded with big nights for two of Twin Cedars’ top seniors. Alee Hugen topped her team-leading 18.6 scoring average by pouring in 24 points while grabbing 10 rebounds for a double-double.
Junior Brittney Roby, who figures to be the top returning player for the Sabers, added 20 points to go with nine boards and team-high five assists. Twin Cedars finishes the season with a 21-4 record.
Class 1A, Region 6 Finals
Earlham 79, Twin Cedars 55
T.C. 12 17 11 15 — 55
Earl. 21 16 23 19 — 79
Twin Cedars (55) — Alee Hugen 24, Brittney Roby 20, Kenzie McCarty 4, Alya Crosby 3, Shyann DenBurger 2, Elizabeth Rowley 2. Totals 21-47 10-17 55.
3-point goals — 3-13 (Roby 2-7, Crosby 1-5, Payton Fee 0-1). Rebounds — 29 (Hugen 10, Roby 9, Crosby 5, McCarty 2, Megan Anderson, DenBurger, Fee). Assists — 16 (Roby 5, Crosby 4, Rowley 4, Fee 3). Steals — 5 (Crosby, DenBurger, Fee, Hugen, Roby). Blocks — 2 (Crosby, DenBurger). Total fouls — 11.