DES MOINES — Mary Halvorson held an ice pack to her jaw.
She was sore, but …
“Oh gosh, this is the best feeling ever,” she said.
It’s the feeling of a finalist.
Second-ranked Waukon built an 11-point third-quarter lead, blew it, then pulled away again to defeat No. 3 Algona, 53-46, in a Class 3A semifinal at the girls’ state basketball tournament Thursday night at Wells Fargo Arena.
“We’ve wanted this so bad,” said Halvorson, who scored 22 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. “Algona’s a great team. We just had to be physical with them.”
Waukon (25-1) faces No. 1 Sioux City Heelan (25-1) for the 3A championship at 6 p.m. Saturday.
“It’s really nice to win this game and have these girls get a chance to play for a championship,” said Waukon Gene Klinge.
“When we won the title in 2004, these girls were in the stands. They were determined then that they were going to form a travel team and become as good as they could be.”
Jordon Reiser added 13 points for the Indians. Reiser had been a part-time starter as a sophomore, but became a reserve after Logan Hjerleid moved into town.
“It was tough for a while, but I got used to it,” Reiser said. “I feel I have more success coming off the bench.”
Waukon used a 17-3 second-quarter run to take a 27-20 halftime lead, then extended it to 33-22 on a 3-pointer by Carissa Berger with 6:05 left in the third period.
But Algona (25-1) stormed back to tie it at 35-35, then again at 41-41.
Reiser broke the tie with a basket, then Halvorson added another to make it 45-41.
At 47-44, Kristyna Herman made four straight free throws to seal it.
“We just didn’t get the defensive stops we needed,” said Bulldogs Coach Brad Sudol.
“We tried double- and triple-teaming Halvorson, but she’s such a tough kid, and Waukon has kids around her that play their roles very well.”
At 5-foot-11, Halvorson did her damage in the teeth of a defense that stood 6-4, 6-2 and 5-11. And Waukon inexplicably tallied a 33-21 rebounding advantage.
“I just threw in a lot of pump fakes and ball fakes,” Halvorson said. “You just can’t back down against them.”
Natalie Hackbarth led Algona with 16 points. Kirsten Lipps added 15.