By Travis Morgan
Des Moines, IA -
When Cedar Rapids Xavier's Kayla Armstrong made a layup off the opening tip, it was a sign of things to come for the Saints.
Fifth-ranked Xavier scored most of its baskets on layups and knocked off top-ranked Bishop Heelan of Sioux City 68-57 to advance to the Class 4A championship game.
Armstrong finished with 22 points to lead the Saints, who'll meet No. 8 Harlan for the title at 6 p.m. Saturday. It will be Xavier's first appearance in the finals since 2007, when the Saints won their third Class 3A championship. They also won in 2003 and 2005.
Xavier earned this trip by constantly pushing the ball up the floor to beat the Crusaders to the basket. Of the Saints' 24 field goals, 16 were layups and three others came on putbacks.
Hayley Deutmeyer added 13 points for Xavier, Sarah Dickes scored 11 and Maddie Bertsch nine. Deutmeyer also grabbed nine rebounds, Bertsch had eight and Armstrong collected seven rebounds and handed out seven assists.
Megan McCarthy led Heelan with 16 points and seven rebounds. MaKayla Augustine scored 15 points, while Taylor Koolstra had 10 points and five assists.
Xavier built a 13-point lead midway through the third quarter, then responded each time the Crusaders threatened to get back into the game. Heelan cut the lead to six points four times but never got any closer.
The last time came when Augustine made a long 3-pointer from the left wing to cut the lead to 56-50 with 2:41 left. Deutmeyer then drove the baseline for a layup and the Saints secured the victory by making eight of 10 free throws. Along the way, Armstrong sped down the floor for one last layup.
Xavier advances with a 16-9 record. Heelan finishes 21-4.
Estherville-Lincoln Central's all-senior starting lineup is getting a chance to play one more game and it will be for a state championship.
Emily Kirchner scored 18 points and sank six straight clutch free throws in the fourth quarter as the third-ranked Midgettes avenged one of their losses with a 49-46 victory over No. 2 MOC-Floyd Valley.
Now, for the second team in three years, Kirchner and her teammates are in the state finals, this time in Class 3A. They'll play top-ranked and two-time defending champion Davenport Assumption for the title at 8 o'clock Friday night.
Estherville-Lincoln Central lost in the Class 2A championship game in 2011.
At 5-feet-8, Kirchner usually is outsized when she plays inside. But she led her team with eight rebounds, scored the Midgettes' only field goal of the fourth quarter on a nifty baseline drive and finished 12-for-12 on free throws.
Allie Sievert added 15 points for the winners and came up with five steals.
Alexis Conaway had another solid game for MOC-Floyd Valley, putting up 22 points to go with 12 rebounds and six steals. Katie Landhuis scored 11 points and Sam Wielenga had six for the Lady Dutch, who were the 3A runners-up last year.
Estherville-Lincoln Central trailed 14-6 late in the first quarter, then stunned the Lady Dutch with a 24-4 run spanning halftime to open a 28-18 lead. But the Lady Dutch, who beat the Midgettes 42-33 in the second game of the regular season, were far from finished.
Conaway set up Landhuis for a short jumper, then stole the ball and made a layup, sparking an 11-2 run that cut the lead 39-38. Estherville-Lincoln Central responded with steady free throw shooting, making 10 of 12 in the final 2:24 to close it out.
Estherville-Lincoln Central hiked its record to 23-3, with the two other losses coming to Class 2A finalist Western Christian. MOC-Floyd Valley finished 24-2, with its other loss also to Western Christian.