DES MOINES — They’re thrilled to be here.
But not “just happy to be here.”
Benton Community makes its debut at the girls’ state basketball tournament Tuesday. The 13th-ranked Bobcats (20-4) face No. 2 Mount Vernon (22-2) — a Wamac Conference rival — in a Class 3A quarterfinal at 8:30 p.m.
“We talk about the feeling the girls will get when they step on the floor, and that’s something they should enjoy,” said Benton Coach Laurie Donald. “If we get awestruck, we could dig ourselves a hole, and we can’t afford to do that.”
Benton annually has good teams — Donald is 108-51 in her seven years as a head coach — but this is the first time the Bobcats have made it to Des Moines. Van Horne High School won a six-player state championship in 1962; that year, the tournament was at McElroy Auditorium in Waterloo.
“It’s been a really fun week,” said Donald, who made it to state as a player for Solon in 1992 and 1993. “We’ve gotten so many neat Facebook posts and e-mails. A lot of our former players are so excited for these kids.”
Benton faced Mount Vernon (last year’s 2A state champion) in the second game of the season, dropping a 66-52 decision.
The Bobcats will be at a distinct size disadvantage Tuesday. Mount Vernon starting front-liners Taylor Dicus, Amanda Platte and Courtney Kintzel all stand 6-foot-plus.
“Our post game has come a long way,” Donald said. “We’ve talked to the girls on how to use their height and to get more physical.”
Benton upset No. 7 Williamsburg and No. 9 Pella in regionals to punch its ticket for Des Moines.
“We’ve played the underdog role the whole way through,” Donald said. “Hopefully we can hang around and make some noise.”
A third Wamac team, No. 6 DeWitt Central, plays in the game preceding Benton and Mount Vernon. The Sabers meet No. 3 MOC-Floyd Valley at 6:45.
Remembering a classmate
The West Hancock Eagles came onto the court for their 1A quarterfinal Monday wearing white T-shirts.
On the front was stenciled: We R Family. On the back, a bright red number 78.
That was Cody Schmit’s football number. Schmit, who would have been a junior this year, was killed when he was pinned under a boat while trying to help change a tire, according to Kaylee Weiland.
“We miss him very much,” she said.
Fifth-ranked West Hancock overcame a 16-point deficit to defeat Bedford, 67-59. The Eagles (25-1) outscored the Bulldogs, 26-7, in the fourth quarter.
“We had to step up and be the more aggressive team,” Weiland said. “You have to play with your heart, and we got our hearts into it. Then it just clicked for us.”
An upset averted
For three quarters, a 10-loss Newell-Fonda outfit played even-steven with No. 1 Martensdale-St. Marys in the day’s opening game.
But the Blue Devils pushed away late and won, 47-34. MSM outscored the Mustangs, 17-5, in the fourth quarter.
“I had confidence that eventually we would pull away and do what we can do,” said Sam Norris, who posted 18 points and 11 rebounds as the Blue Devils enjoyed a 45-28 rebounding advantage.
MSM prevailed despite shooting 11 of 26 from the free-throw line (including 1 of 8 in the first half as Newell-Fonda led, 19-17).
“Maybe we were too uptight, too tense,” Norris said. “It’s definitely a mental thing.”