Gael girls open with challenging foe

Winners of seven straight games, the St. Edmond girls basketball team appears to be hitting its stride at the most opportune time.

The 13th-ranked Gaels (19-2 overall) will kick off tournament play tonight by hosting Carroll Kuemper (15-7) in a Class 2A, Region 2 quarterfinal.

Tip is set for 7 p.m. at the SEHS gym.

In their last outing back on Feb. 1, North Central Conference co-champion St. Edmond wrapped up its regular season with a decisive 55-38 home triumph over Iowa Falls-Alden.

“I think we’re playing pretty well right now,” SEHS head coach Scott Messerly said. “It was nice to have that long break to get our legs fresh and everybody healthy again.”

Sophomore guard Anna Yung (14.0 points per game) and junior forward Alli Huss (13.3) are the top scoring threats in the Gael lineup. Huss also grabs a team-high 8.5 rebounds a night, while sophomore point guard Jaci Stumpf delivers 5.5 assists and 3.9 steals.

Less than three weeks ago, St. Edmond escaped with a nail-biting 46-43 victory here over Kuemper, which ousted Prairie Valley in its regional opener by a 67-41 final.

“We probably expect almost the same exact game,” said Messerly. “Our girls know they need to be at their best from here on out. We know we’ll see some different wrinkles (this evening), but we have a good tough bunch of girls that can adjust to pretty much anything.”

Iowa State recruit Lexi Albrecht (15.7) and Maria Dentlinger (11.4) are the key offensive cogs for the Knights, who boast a five-game winning streak of their own.

Albrecht was held to just seven points on only 1-for-11 shooting in the previous meeting with the Gaels. The 5-foot-10 guard has scored in double figures 19 times this year, including a season-high 29 points in a 66-48 thumping of Lewis Central. Albrecht also contributes 4.9 assists and 2.1 steals per contest.

“Jaci will guard (Albrecht) again after locking her down so well the first time,” Messerly said. “The key for Jaci defensively is she moves her feet and won’t reach or foul. We also have to make sure we contest all their shooters.”

St. Edmond holds opponents to just 36.8 points an outing, while the Knights come in averaging 52.0. The Gaels suffered both of their setbacks this season to NCC co-champion Hampton-Dumont.

Tonight’s winner advances to face either No. 7 Panorama (20-2) or Ogden (9-13) in a 2A, Region 2 semifinal Friday at 7 p.m. in Ogden.