BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
WEST BURLINGTON – Central Lee learned Friday night they can play with one of the best team’s in the state.
But the Hawks couldn’t stay with Class 3A’s No. 7 team the whole night. West Burlington (13-0, 10-0 in the SEISC South) pulled away in the final five minutes for a 59-44 win in West Burlington.
It was all Mya Merschman again for the Hawks as she scored 31 to lead all scorers, including all eight first quarter points as the Falcons jumped out to a quick 17-8 lead.
Central Lee went just 3-of-9 shooting in the period, with no shots falling from outside 10 feet, and Merschman doing all the work maneuvering inside.
West Burlington’s McKenna Marlow capped the first quarter with a 3-pointer from the right baseline to end the first.
The Hawks would outscore West Burlington in the 2nd quarter 17-12 with Ella Sanders and Makayla Morrison each hitting long balls to pull West Burlington’s zone defense out.
Morrison’s 3-ball with 1:36 left in the half cut the lead to just three at 24-21.
Central would get a stop on the next possession. Merschman would get fouled moving inside and convert both free-throws to cut the lead to one.
West Burlington then scored five straight including Natalie Vandenberg’s 3-pointer to push the lead back to six. Merschman would slide from the right side into the lane and convert a runner in the lane at the buzzer for a 29-25 halftime score.
Baldwin said the Hawks did a much better job rebounding against the bigger Falcons this time around. West Burlington beat Central Lee 59-46 in Donnellson on Dec. 4.
“We did a much better job on the boards this time. Last time they really took it us,” he said.
A bucket by Macy Watkins out of the break cut the lead to two. Sydney Marlow, one of four Falcons to finish in double figures for the night, scored back to back to make it a 7-point game, but Merschman would return fire with her own 7-0 run including a three-point play.
Merschman had blocked shots on two Falcon possessions in the rally and then would tie the game at 34 with a put-back off her own missed shot inside.
Annika Harris got a bucket for West Burlington at the other end and then McKenna Marlow would get a steal off full court pressure on the inbounds and score to make it 38-34.
West Burlington took over from there holding Central Lee scoreless the remaining three minutes of the third period and outscored the Hawks 15-10 in the final period.
A Merschman bucket on a two-step hop in the lane cut the lead to five at 49-44 with about five minutes to play, but that would be the final Hawks points.
“We showed that we could play with them. They are one of the best teams around,” Baldwin said.
“We just need a confidence booster. We just haven’t learned to fight through the problems and that causes us to played scared sometimes.”
Aside from Merschman’s 31, Morrison had five, Maura Watkins and Ella Sanders each had three and Macy Watkins finished with 2 points on the night.
Sydney Marlow, Vandenberg, Harris and Abby Bence all had 10 points for the Falcons, who’s 13 wins are best in the state in Class 3A.