Rams headed back to state basketball tournament

The Glenwood girls punched their fourth straight ticket to the Iowa State Basketball Tournament with a 65-45 victory over Pella in tonight's Class 4A Reigonal finals.

The saying goes "Victory is a thousand times sweeter when you’re the underdog."

Glenwood coach Brian Rasmussen can’t swear to that adage, but this victory certainly was sweet.

The unranked, road weary Rams came into its match up at No. 8 ranked Pella the decided underdog in the Class 4A Regional finals. They left with a decisive 65-45 victory, the regional title and a fourth straight ticket punched to next week’s Iowa State Basketball Tournament. 

“They’re resilient and they’re competitors and that showed tonight,” said Rasmussen after the game. “We rolled the ball out there and said whoever wants it more is going to take it. And that’s exactly what we did.”

The No. 8 seeded Rams (16-8) will open the Class 4A state tournament Tuesday against top seeded Dallas Center-Grimes (20-3) at 11:45 a.m. at the Wells Fargo Arena.

Everything was rolling the Rams way early against Pella.

Glenwood jumped out to an early 11-2 lead thanks to eight quick points from Jenna Hopp and a defensive effort that was stifling from the opening top. The Dutch hit just two of their first 12 shots and found themselves down 16-7 after the first quarter.

The Rams’ lead swelled to 35-20 late in the second quarter after back-to-back buckets by Hopp. The lead was 35-22 at the half with Hopp nearly outscoring the Dutch by herself, pouring in 18 points.

After halftime, the Dutch got more aggressive on the defensive end, but it didn’t slow the Rams. A Hopp runner, a Lauren Hughes three-pointer and an Arnold layup pushed the lead to 51-31 midway through the third frame. 

Pella would never get closer the rest of the game as the Rams’ lead extended to as many as 26 points in the fourth quarter.

Every time Pella appeared poised to make a comeback run, the Rams had an answer. First on the defensive end, where guards Danika Arnold and Neyla Nanfito hounded the Dutch’s top two scorers – guards Kennedy Van Ark and Kylie Tauk – and never let either get comfortable. The pair combined to go 1-of-4 from the field. As a team, Pella shot a season-low 23.3 percent, including 3-of-23 from behind the arc, and turned the ball over 15 times.

On the offensive end, when Hopp wasn’t scoring, the Rams’ ball movement got open looks on almost every second half possession. Lauren Hughes hit four three-pointers as part of her 14 point and Arnold put in 13 points.

Rasmussen was quick to credit his assistant coaches with helping to come up with the game plan.

“This was an unfamiliar team we didn’t know a whole heck of a lot about, and they didn’t know a lot about us. The girls just executed so well tonight,” the coach said. “They played so hard. Danika (Arnold) and Neyla (Nanfito) really made it hard for their top two scorers to get going or get any rhythm or get shots off. They got most of their points at the free throw line. They’re a tough team. They’re here for a reason. I just think our girls just did an excellent job executing.”

And Hopp was, well, Hopp. The senior South Dakota State recruit put on a show, scoring a game-high 30 points, pulling down 17 rebounds and dishing out six assists. She even blocked five shots and had four steals.

“She’s Jenna Hopp,” Rasmussen said. “I can’t even say enough about her play, not just tonight but all season. There’s not a lot of people that expected us to be in this position and going back to Des Moines again, but our girls never stopped believing, even after a couple tough losses and kind of a roller coaster, up and down season. 

“Our kids never stopped believing in themselves and trusting each other and now we’re going back.”

The Opinion-Tribune

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