Mustangs finish second

DES MOINES – In the end, it just wasn’t meant to be for the Newell-Fonda girls Friday night.

Despite saving their best for last, the second-ranked Mustangs (24-3 overall) saw their hopes of a first-ever state basketball title fall narrowly short, dropping a crushing 63-61 decision to No. 1 Central Lyon in a Class 1A final at Wells Fargo Arena.

Trailing by as many as 15 points early in the fourth quarter, Newell-Fonda nearly pulled off a seemingly improbable rally with a furious 20-7 run down the stretch. The relentless Mustangs actually sliced the deficit to one on three different occasions in the final frame but failed to get over the hump.

“We got the type of style and system where we never feel we’re out of a game,” N-F head coach Dick Jungers said.

“I wish we just had one more big shot in us.

“(The Lions) edged us out this time, but I think our girls would like to have a rematch (tonight) if the (IGHSAU) would let us.”

Renee Maneman, a 5-foot-5 junior point guard, ignited the Mustangs once again with game-highs in points (18), rebounds (10) and assists (7) en route to earning 1A all-tournament honors.

Senior Andrea Christensen and junior Claudia Larsen each delivered 12 points, while junior Taiyler Schrank added 11 for co-Twin Lakes Conference champion Newell-Fonda, which saw its five-game victory streak snapped in the loss.

“I wish we could’ve came out in the No. 1 spot, but second place isn’t too shabby, either,” said Christensen, who was also named to the 1A all-tournament squad. “Nobody can underestimate Newell-Fonda. We always keep pushing hard until the end.”

After a see-saw opening half that featured 25 combined ties and lead changes, the Lions appeared to gain control with an 18-11 burst in the third period. Kelsey Ackerman’s triple with 7:19 left in the contest later extended Central Lyon’s advantage to 56-41, setting the stage for Newell-Fonda’s valiant comeback attempt.

Three clutch Schrank longballs and a pair of timely hoops from both Maneman and Larsen kept the Mustangs well within striking distance, however, the Lions slammed the door by draining 4 of 6 free throws in the final minute. As the buzzer sounded, Maneman’s desperation heave just inside halfcourt was off the mark, allowing Central Lyon to escape with its 15th straight win.

“I thought we were going to get back in it,” Schrank said. “Our defense was a big key (N-F forced 20 turnovers with its full-court pressure), and we finally started to knock down some threes.”

Kori Schulte netted a team-best 15 points for the Lions (26-2), while 1A all-tournament captain Lexi Ackerman contributed 12 – before fouling out midway through the fourth – and twin sister Kelsey tallied 11. Central Lyon, which was making its state debut, suffered its only two setbacks this season to second-ranked 3A state semifinalist MOC-Floyd Valley.

Christensen, Taylor Lago and Haley Voss all wrapped up their N-F careers on the hardwood. Over the past four years, the Mustangs compiled an 80-23 overall record.

“I know our kids will definitely use this loss as rocket fuel heading into next season,” said Jungers. “Central Lyon was as good as advertised. They were right up there with any team we played this year.”

Rounding out the rest of the 1A all-tournament team were Schulte, Burlington Notre Dame’s Morgan Myers and Bellevue Marquette’s Danielle Bender.

Newell-Fonda, which previously settled for 1A runner-up honors in 1997, ’00 and ’08, was making its ninth state trip. Jungers has also guided Newell-Fonda to the state softball tournament six times since 2005, including a 1A crown in ’08 and second-place efforts in ’09 and ’10.