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Midgets fend off Warriors in Iowa basketball clash, 52-43

CLEAN BLOCK — North Union post player Sam Nielsen (right) rejects a shot by Estherville-Lincoln Central guard Jordyn Stokes (14) during Iowa high school basketball action Monday night in Armstrong. The Warriors’ Lily Henderson (back left) and Vanessa Von Bank (13) watch the defensive gem. (Photo by Greg Abel)

ARMSTRONG — North Union head girls basketball coach Merle Tigges and Warriors assistant coach Joel Klocke knew via the Varsity Bound website that Estherville-Lincoln Central had hoisted a combined 87 attempts from behind the 3-point arc in the Midgets’ previous three games.

“Our pre-game concept was simple. I’d rather force them to hit 12 2-pointers than 12 3-pointers, so defensively we tried to limit their (the Midgets) looks from behind the arc,” said Tigges.

North Union’s strategy worked in holding ELC — which tipped off the Iowa nonconference clash in Armstrong with 27 made trifectas — to only 5 of 13 from long range Monday night.

Unfortunately for the hometown Warriors, 5-foot-10 hybrid post player Jaydan Nitchals produced a game-best 24 points — including three 3s — and grabbed a game-high 15 rebounds to help ELC fend off North Union’s second-half comeback, 52-43.

“She’s just too much of an all-around good player to stop completely,” Tigges said in reference to Nitchals, who averaged 18.3 points per game in powering the Midgets to a perfect record in three outings.

“I thought we did a nice job of playing defense early on,” Klocke said in reference to the Warriors forcing the Midgets to open the contest shooting 0-for-6 from the field en route to an 8-2 hometown lead halfway through the first quarter.

Ironically, Lily Henderson and Olivia Von Bank swooshed 3-pointers before Henderson floated home a nifty runner through the lane to counter Nitchals’ two free throws early on.

Nitchals, however, shook off the rust and triggered ELC’s ensuing 11-0 offensive surge that eventually built a 13-8 lead for the visitors. After Sam Nielsen nailed a jumper with 18 seconds to go in the opening frame to inch North Union within three, Nitchals hardly moved the nylon nets on a buzzer-beating right-wing 3-pointer off one of Jordyn Stokes’ six assists for a 16-10 lead.

Nielsen, who neared double-double territory by scoring nine points to complement a team-best 13 boards, tossed in a turnaround low-post jumper off one of Henderson’s six assists to inch the Warriors within 31-21 by halftime.

Nitchals, however, connected on her third and final 3-pointer to stake ELC to a 38-25 lead with 5 minutes remaining in the third quarter.

Cassie Beadle then converted a Henderson drive-and-kick pass for a pivotal 3-pointer that served as the catalyst behind North Union’s ensuing 10-3 run.

Olivia Von Bank cashed in a Beadle low-post entry pass for a leaner before Jasey Anderson answered with a 3-pointer for ELC. Nielsen hit a solo free throw, Alivia Charlton tossed in a putback basket and Nielsen’s baseline jumper off Emily Meyer’s entry pass whittled North Union’s deficit to 41-35 with 1:14 left in the third quarter.

Stokes and Nitchals, however, delivered a 1-2 punch in the final minute to restore a 10-point lead for the Midgets. Stokes tossed in a 12-foot runner in the lane and Nitchals beat the buzzer again on a low-post leaner for a 45-35 edge.

Beadle’s baseline shot off another Meyer assist and Charlton’s low-post basket off a pass from Beadle narrowed the Warriors’ gap to six again to open the fourth quarter, but Nitchals would have the final word down the stretch.

Nitchals converted two free throws and a low-post turnaround to help ELC prevail by nine points in the end.

“That really is the best game we’ve played this far, so hopefully we can keep it going (tonight),” said Tigges.

North Union (2-1) plays host to Forest City at 6 p.m. tonight in Armstrong, while ELC (4-0) travels to Hull, Iowa, to face Western Christian.

Henderson topped the Warriors’ balanced offensive performance with 10 points to complement her six assists, Beadle generated eight points and doled out four assists, Olivia Von Bank tallied seven points, while Meyer and Charlton contributed five and four points, respectively, off the bench.

Nitchals pocketed three steals to complement her double-double performance for ELC, while Stokes netted solid all-around numbers of 12 points, six assists and four steals.

ELC 16 15 14 7 — 52

NU 10 11 14 8 — 43

NORTH UNION (43)

O. Von Bank 3-8 0-2 7, V. Von Bank 0-2 0-0 0, Nielsen 4-8 1-2 9, Beadle 3-3 1-2 8, Henderson 4-9 1-3 10, Meyer 2-4 0-0 5, Charlton 2-2 0-0 4, Jones 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 18-37 3-9 43.

ELC (52)

Nitchals 8-22 5-6 24, Heinrichs 2-3 0-0 5, Anderson 2-3 0-0 5, Tendal 3-11 0-0 6, Stokes 6-11 0-0 12, White 0-0 0-0 0, Sander 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-50 5-6 52.

3-pointers: Estherville-Lincoln Central 5-13 (Nitchals 3-5, Heinrichs 1-2, Anderson 1-2, Tendal 0-4); North Union 4-10 (Beadle 1-1, Henderson 1-2, O. Von Bank 1-3, Meyer 1-3, V. Von Bank 0-1). Rebounds: North Union 27 (Nielsen 13); ELC 27 (Nitchals 15). Assists: North Union 13 (Henderson 6, Beadle 4); ELC 10 (Stokes 6). Steals: ELC 10 (Stokes 4, Nitchals 3); North Union 3.

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