DES MOINES — There’s length, then there’s length.
The revealing term, spoken with the right inflection, implies that something else augments it.
And that’s skill.
Second-ranked MOC-Floyd Valley ripples with that imposing on-court combination, and it’s a prime reason why the Lady Dutch pulled away to beat No. 13 Mid-Prairie 51-30 in Tuesday’s Class 3A girls’ state tournament quarterfinal at Wells Fargo Arena.
“We’ve seen length, but not that can handle the ball like that and move like that,” said Golden Hawks coach Marc Pennington, whose team reached state for the first time since 2004. “They’re a good team. They’ve been here a lot and we knew it was a huge opponent for us, but our kids, I knew they’d play hard.”
That they did.
A 13-1 MOC-Floyd Valley run in the first quarter forced Mid-Prairie into catch-up mode, down 16-3.
The Golden Hawks (18-8) answered with a 7-0 splurge keyed by a pair of Mariah Swartzentruber baskets, but trailed 25-15 at halftime.
“We had that feeling we could (come back), but then they pulled away,” Swartzentruber said.
Not for a while.
The Lady Dutch (24-1) saw a 14-point cushion whittled to nine at the end of the third quarter, but sealed the win with a 16-4 final frame.
Six-footer Alexis Conaway scored 17 points and collected 11 rebounds for MOC-Floyd Valley, which enjoyed three possessions with two offensive boards or more.
“She’s long, she’s athletic,” said Mid-Prairie’s Mallory McArtor, who scored a team-high 10 points. “It was just a battle where you’re five feet tall and she’s six feet tall.”
Still, the Golden Hawks gave the Lady Dutch their best game since early January.
MOC-Floyd Valley had outscored its past 10 Class 3A foes by an average of 33 points.
“They played just like we did — to win,” said Lady Dutch coach Gary Richardson, whose team seeks to improve upon its runner-up finish a year ago. “They were scrappy and everything we went out and got, they contested. They came at us in every passing lane and we struggled with that. Certainly a credit to them, for playing as hard as the did. They play that 1-3-1 (zone) pretty darn good and we’d try to get people in the right spots and they would get in our way.”
No one spoke of moral victories in the Mid-Prairie camp, but pride was shared in ending an eight-year tournament drought.
Erika Murphy added nine points for the Golden Eagles and Swartzentruber grabbed a team-best six rebounds and three steals.
“It just felt so good to get something accomplished at the big stage, getting here all together,” Murphy said.