For 13 games this season, no team could find a way to beat 11th-ranked Moravia.
Now, Twin Cedars has figured out how to do it twice.
Just three nights after handing the Mohawks their first loss of the season in the Bluegrass Conference Tournament title game, the Sabers gave the Moravia girls basketball team a bad case of deja-vu. With an very effective full-court press and a balanced scoring effort, the Sabers made it two in a row over the 11th-ranked team in Class 1A with a 59-47 victory Tuesday night in Moravia.
“The only thing I was worried about before the game was a little bit about a lull having to play the same team all over again,” Sabers head coach Justin Nolte said about the back-to-back matchups with the Mohawks. “I just wanted to make sure we pumped up and excited for this contest.
“I could tell from the first minute, we were good to go. It kind of took off from there.”
What really got the Sabers off and rolling was a pressure defense that hounded the Mohawks from one end of the court to the other. Twin Cedars forced the Mohawks into 20 first-half turnovers, several of which came in the backcourt and led to easy Saber baskets.
According to Nolte, the idea to press Moravia from the opening minutes started after the defense helped Twin Cedars pull out a 48-36 win over Moravia in Saturday’s Bluegrass final
“It started to work pretty well over in Murray on Saturday and I thought it would work even better on (Moravia’s) floor,” Nolte said. “This is a smaller gym and we didn’t have as much space to travel. Our press was really key.”
The press provided Twin Cedars with the first two big runs of the game as the Sabers opened up a double-digit lead with seven straight points after holding a 19-16 edge after one quarter. The press forced more mistakes by the Mohawks later in the period as Twin Cedars scored the final 12 points of the first half, capped by Alee Hugen’s steal and buzzer-beating shot to put the Sabers up 38-21 at halftime.
“I think beating them on Saturday did a lot for our confidence,” Hugen said after leading the Sabers with a 16-point, 12-rebound double-double. “We let the first game earlier this month with them get away on our home floor. We knew we shouldn’t have lost that game and actually beating them gave us the confidence that we could beat them again.”
While Twin Cedars played with confidence, Moravia looked unsure for most of the contest. Even when the Mohawks were able to beat the Saber press upcourt, Moravia had trouble finishing at the basket with several close shots that seemed to be shot too quickly.
“I tell the girls all the time that ball’s not hot. Sometimes they act like it is,” Moravia head coach Clint Woodward said. “We have to take it to heart in practice to protect that basketball.”
By the end of the night, Moravia committed 34 turnovers and 29 fouls, allowing Twin Cedars to double up the Mohawks from the foul line by hitting 20 of 40 free throw attempts. According to senior Katelynn Tracy, Moravia’s top scorer and rebounder, the miscues could be chalked up to a combination of youth and trying to deal with their success thus far.
“When the rankings came out and we saw we were ranked 12th, I think that got to our heads a little bit,” Tracy said. “Our passing still isn’t the best. We have a lot of younger girls and we need to learn how to slow the game down when we need to.”
Tracy, the area’s leading rebounder and third-leading scorer, overcame foul trouble to grab an incredible 24 rebounds while adding a game-best 16 points of her own. The four-year starter talked about playing such a big role in what has been a season full of winning for Moravia.
“This year has been so much bigger then our last four years,” Tracy said. “Last year, we just got over .500 for the first time and now we already have 13 wins. Just going back to my freshman year, this team has come a long way.”
Woodward talked about his star senior.
“Katelynn’s been such a great player for us and does a great job leading by example,” Woodward said. “The only thing I wish is that she’d take more of the initiative on offense. She’s almost too unselfish at times.”
Any hopes of a comeback were halted early in the second half as Twin Cedars used an 8-2 run to double up Moravia 46-23. The Mohawks got only as close as 12 points, but hit just one field goal in the first six minutes of the fourth quarter.
Twin Cedars (13-2, 5-1) heads to Mormon Trail on Friday night while No. 11 (1A) Moravia (13-2, 6-0) heads to Melcher-Dallas Monday. Tuesday’s game did not count toward the Bluegrass Conference standings.
The two teams could meet again in the postseason. If both win two regional games on their home floors, Twin Cedars and Moravia would have a fourth meeting in Albia in the Class 1A regional semifinals.
Twin Cedars 59, No. 11 (1A) Moravia 47
T.C. 19 19 10 11 — 59
Mor. 16 5 11 15 — 47
Twin Cedars (59) — Alee Hugan 16, Brittney Roby 14, Ayla Crosby 12, Payton Fee 12, Shyann DenBurger 4, Elizabeth Rowley 1. Totals 18-52 20-40 59.
3-point goals — 3-12 (Fee 2-3, Crosby 1-6, Roby 0-3). Fouled out — Kenzie McCarty. Rebounds — 41 (Hugen 12, Crosby 7, Fee 6, Roby 6, DenBurger 5, McCarty 5). Assists — 14 (Fee 5, Roby 5, Crosby 2, Hugen, McCarty). Steals — 23 (Crosby 6, Hugen 6, Fee 5, Roby 5, McCarty). Blocks — 1 (Hugan). Total fouls — 15. Turnovers — 24.
Moravia (47) — Katelynn Tracy 16, Hannah Eastlick 10, Jenna Sheehan 9, Autumn McDanel 5, McKenzie Smith 4, Kendall Brown 3. Totals 18-57 10-14 47.
3-point goals — 1-7 (McDanel 1-4, Tracy 0-1, Sheehan 0-2). Fouled out — Eastlick, McDanel, Smith. Rebounds — 51 (Tracy 24, Brown 12, Eastlick 5, Smith 5, McDanel 2, Becca Anderson, Nicole Self, Sheehan). Assists — 13 (McDanel 3, Sheehan 3, Self 2, Smith 2, Tracy 2, Albertson). Steals — 10 (McDanel 2, Sheehan 2, Tracy 2, Brown, Eastlick, Self, Smith). Blocks — 10 (Brown 4, Tracy 4, Eastlick, McDanel). Total fouls — 29. Turnovers — 34.