BY JOHN BOHNENKAMP
WEST BURLINGTON — Central Lee had eliminated West Burlington in the girls basketball regional tournament the last season.
It’s why, after the Falcons won both regular-season games against the Hawks this season, West Burlington coach John Vandenberg didn’t want to change anything in the game plan.
“We beat them twice with what we had,” Vandenberg said.
The third time worked, too.
West Burlington shut down Central Lee in the second and third quarters to take a 49-38 win in Wednesday’s Class 3A regional semifinal.
The Falcons (20-1), ranked No. 5 in the state, will play No. 9 West Liberty in Saturday’s regional final at Wapello.
Central Lee, which came into the game on a five-game winning streak, finished the season 13-9.
West Burlington went on a 12-3 run to close the first half, then outscored the Hawks 13-3 in the third quarter.
“We just went back to kind of just standing around offensively,” Central Lee coach Jay Baldwin said. “Everything we planned, we didn’t do. We did nothing that was in our game plan offensively. I don’t know if it was nerves or what. We didn’t put the ball in the basket, and then couldn’t get any confidence on the defensive end because of it.”
“I don’t know if we could have played better in those first three minutes (of the second half),” Vandenberg said of the way the Falcons pulled away to open the third quarter.
There was one little tweak to the Falcons’ game plan — they were able to keep Central Lee’s Mya Merschman out of the lane. Merschman, second in the state in scoring at 28 points per game, finished with 19.
“She’s a great player,” Vandenberg said. “She’s going to get her touches, she’s going to get her points. She scored 19, and she’s averaging, what, 30? We were happy with that.”
“When I got this job, I didn’t really know her,” Baldwin said. “That girl is one of the fiercest competitors I’ve ever seen. She hates to lose as much as I do. She’s been nothing but absolutely fantastic. She’s done everything we’ve asked her to do.”
Alivia Myhre added 12 for the Hawks.
Sydney Marlow led West Burlington with 18 points. Abbey Bence had 10.