Mustangs roll in opener

DES MOINES – Newell-Fonda took altruistic basketball to a whole new level at the girls state tournament here Monday.

The top-ranked Mustangs recorded assists on 81 percent of their made baskets in cruising past Bedford, 73-37, during a Class 1A quarterfinal inside Wells Fargo Arena.

Despite playing just 20 minutes, senior point guard Renee Maneman tied the five-player tournament record with 13 assists for Newell-Fonda (23-2 overall). As a team, the defending state runner-up Mustangs dished out 26 helpers on their 32 field goals – the kind of efficiency that head coach Dick Jungers has come to expect from his veteran outfit.

”Our kids always do a great job of making that extra pass and getting a better look at the basket,” said Jungers, who has Newell-Fonda at state for the third time in four seasons. ”It’s a very special group in that they are all unselfish; they really don’t care who is getting the points, as long as we’re winning games.

”We’re very determined and hungry to finish what we start. The girls are treating this like a business trip. Having four senior starters back is a definite advantage.”

Six-foot-one senior Claudia Larsen – like Maneman, a Northwestern College recruit – scored 16 points for the Mustangs. Larsen added five assists and four blocks in 17 minutes of action.

Junior Hailey Falline contributed 16 points off the bench, while Maneman finished with 13 points, seven steals and six rebounds to complement her assist total. Junior Brianna Wells also reached double figures with 10 points.

”(The record) is just a credit to my teammates,” Maneman said. ”(The 26 team assists) means we were executing our offense and doing whatever it takes to get the victory.

”That’s what it’s all about. Losing (in the finals here a year ago) has definitely motivated us. We’re just really focused right now, and we know that (winning a title) will take a total team effort all week long.”

Newell-Fonda put on a clinic in the first half. The Twin Lakes Conference champion Mustangs were up 44-13 at the intermission, with Maneman dishing out 10 of her assists and the squad attempting 42 shots from the floor, making 20.

Jungers’ squad recorded more assists (16) than the Bulldogs had points by halftime. Meanwhile, N-F held Bedford (17-8) to only four made field goals on 25 tries.

”I thought we really forced some things with our pressure defensively,” Maneman said. ”It all started there.”

The Bulldogs, who were also making their third state appearance in four years, had beaten the No. 9 and No. 5 teams in 1A to reach state. Emily Weed (12 points) led Bedford, which fell far enough behind to evoke the continuous clock rule with 7:05 remaining in the fourth quarter.

The Mustangs have finished second here four times: in 1997, 2000, 2008 and last season. They will now face fourth-rated Colo-Nesco (24-1) in the semifinal round on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m.

”There isn’t much of a difference this time around (approach-wise to state), other than having a group that’s a year older and a year more mature,” said Jungers, who earned his 250th career victory on Monday. ”But I’m not about to underrate that. You never take anything for granted when you get this far. Our focus was entirely on Bedford (this past week), and now it shifts to Colo-Nesco. Nothing beyond that. And it’s great to have a group of girls who are on the same page as the (coaching staff). They stay humble and focused on each game, one at a time.”