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Mustangs climb past ADM, advance to regional final

Sean Cordy
Correspondent
DCG's Julia Reis looks to move the ball past an ADM defender during the regional semifinal on Saturday, Feb. 20.

In a rematch of last year's regional semifinal, the Dallas Center-Grimes (19-2) and ADM (9-14) girls saw the same outcome as the Mustangs won once again, besting the Tigers 52-39 Saturday at home.

No time for a sequel

There was one thing that was vastly different than last year's matchup. While ADM lost by double digits in the end in 2020, the Tigers actually held a one-point lead at halftime over DCG. With a more conservative play style from both teams Saturday, DCG was able to pocket the first half with a 23-17 lead. 

That was preserved at all costs when in the final minute, the Mustangs burned the clock around the perimeter in hopes to draw a foul from the Tigers. While ADM stayed clean, it also prevented any ounce of momentum for the Tigers going into the break.

ADM's Claire Greenslade guards DCG's Victoria Bickford during the regional semifinal on Saturday, Feb. 20 in Grimes.

"We knew that if we just took care of the basketball took care of the basketball, we were just trying to get free shots," DCG head coach Adam Jones said. "We didn't make as many free throws as I'd like but we weren't trying to stall, necessarily."

DCG Unchained

Scoring woes continued after the break as it took two and a half minutes for ADM to get the first points of the third quarter, and another minute passed by before the Mustangs got back on the board. And they did so in a big way with back-to-back trips with a three-pointer. Followed immediately by a Finley Fitzgerald free throw and Lexi Protzman layup, DCG was rolling with a 34-19 lead.

That wasn't far removed from the pattern set last year when ADM's three point third-quarter opened the door for DCG to walk out with the win. 

ADM's Aniston Smith brings the ball up the court as DCG's Julia Reis keeps pace on Saturday, Feb. 20 in Grimes.

"It's kind of the same thing we've had all year where we got on these long stretches and can't score," ADM head coach Jacob Cleveland said. "We just can't go cold against the No. 3 team in the state and that's kind of what happened. Our defensive effort was here. We just couldn't get to the basket."

While the Tigers fell short as a team, their top playmakers ran in stride with the Mustangs' go-to names. Aniston Smith led the Tigers with 13 points while Nicole Storck and Grace Hardcastle added 12 and nine apiece. 

"It's bittersweet. We have such a great connection. Our girls left it all on the court and they can keep their heads up high. That's the kind of group we had," Cleveland added.

Olivia Tollari brings the ball up the court for ADM during the regional semifinal against Dallas Center-Grimes on Saturday, Feb. 20.

Led by Avery Korsching (13 points), three Mustangs cracked double digits — Ella Lampe (12), Lexi Protzman (10) and Vanessa Bickford (10).

Familiar faces

While the strong closing act was welcomed by the Mustangs, they know they'll need a complete four-act play Tuesday against Creston (14-6) in the regional final. The Mustangs won 66-44 in their game against the Panthers earlier this season.

"We're familiar with them. Not as familiar as we are with Norwalk (which lost to Creston in the semifinal game). They're playing really good basketball right now," Jones said.

Creston overcame a halftime deficit against Norwalk to win 62-56. The Panthers are currently ranked No. 15 in the latest power index compared to DCG slotted at No. 5 in Class 4A.

Vanessa Bickford surveys the floor during the regional semifinal against ADM on Saturday, Feb. 20 in Grimes.