WEST LIBERTY — As historic as this basketball season has been for the Centerville Redettes, it would have taken something even more memorable to advance to the Class 3A state tournament.
The outright South Central Conference champions lost for just the second time this season, falling to one of two teams ranked in the top 10 in Class 3A, Region 8. Ninth-ranked West Liberty held the Redettes to a season-low point total, earning a 39-18 win in the regional semifinals and a date with No. 5 West Burlington on Saturday with a trip to the Iowa High School girls state basketball tournament on the line.
"This was one of the most physical games I have ever been a part of. The officials really let both be physical with each other and it made for a really hard night offensively for both teams," Centerville head girls basketball coach Nic Belloma said. "In the lane, you had to almost be thrown to the ground to get a foul called, so both team struggled to score in the lane.
"West Liberty is more of a perimeter teams and they knocked down enough of those shots. We are a team that make a living off getting to the lane and finishing. That's a bad recipe when team allowed to play as physical as West Liberty."
Centerville hit just one of 19 attempts from 3-point range in the contest and were outrebounded 31-21 by the Comets. The Redettes did record five blocks, but were done in by the perimeter play of West Liberty.
"West Liberty is a nice team and I get them a lot of credit," Belloma said. "They knocked down enough outside shots to get an 11-point lead (20-9) at the half and they kept the lead there most of the night."
Claire George scored the first three points of the night for Centerville, dominating the glass early, while Claire Mathews took advantage of a pair of steals, scoring in transition to give the Redettes a brief 5-4 lead in the first quarter before tying the game at 7-7 early in the second quarter. West Liberty would finish the half on a 13-2 run, taking the lead for good after a tiebreaking 3-pointer by Sailor Hall.
Claire George led Centerville with seven points in the season-ending loss. Mathews, who reached 1,000 career points earlier this year, finished with four points while Rachel George connected on Centerville's only made 3-pointer. Kyla Moore and Mickey Stephens each added two points apiece for the Redettes.
"This has been a great season for this group of players, winning the SCC outright for the first time in school history, tying the school record for wins in a season even thought we were four games short of a full schedule," Belloma said. "We have four seniors that have been a huge part of the success of this team the last few year that will be missed."