OK, so the rubber match is off.
Donnie Kremer hopes his team’s edge didn’t depart with it.
“That’s in the back of my head,” Kremer said as eighth-ranked Monticello (23-1) prepares for its Class 2A girls’ basketball regional final against Bellevue (17-6). Tipoff is 7 p.m. today at Western Dubuque High School in Epworth.
The Panthers heard of Bellevue’s regional-semifinal upset of No. 5 Maquoketa Valley about the time they entered the locker room to celebrate their victory over Camanche.
“We’re glad we don’t have to play Maquoketa Valley, but Bellevue will be just as dangerous,” Kremer said.
The state-tournament field will be finalized in classes 2A and 1A tonight. In 1A games of area interest, Central City (16-8) faces No. 9 Lynnville-Sully (19-4) at Meskwaki Settlement School near Tama and Lone Tree (17-6) meets No. 6 North Mahaska at Wellman.
Central City had been a girls’ basketball purgatory through much of its first 16 years since making the switch to 5-on-5. Sixteen straight losing seasons.
But the Wildcats went 12-12 and reached the regional semifinals last year, then continued the ascent this season.
They rallied from a 12-point third-quarter deficit to stun No. 11 North Tama, 54-46, in the regional semis. If they slay another ranked team tonight, they’ll make their first state appearance since 1991.
“It’s amazing,” Central City Coach Cody Ratliff said. “The kids deserve every bit of this. This will be another tough battle, but the kids will be ready.”
Speaking of ready, Bellevue had best be prepared for a potential fourth-quarter onslaught by Monticello. The Panthers trailed Camanche by a point after three quarters Friday. They won by 17.
“Our pressure got to them,” Kremer said. “We got some turnovers and we got some easy baskets. I always tell the girls we might not get everything to work at the beginning of the game. But by the fourth quarter, it will take a toll.”
Regional finals in 3A and 4A are Tuesday.