CHASING HISTORY: Forest City’s girls basketball team opens postseason play tonight

Like anything else five decades old, the Forest City girls’ basketball team has had some good and not-so-good years. As we approached the tipoff of the regional contest between Forest City and New Hampton tonight in Forest City, the 2023-2024 season has been very successful for the girls. They finished second in the TIC West, were ranked from the start of the season to the final rankings, were in the top 10 at one point, earned two home postseason games (if they win tonight), and for just the second time in 5v5 school history, the Indians finished with 18 regular season wins.

This Forest City team tied the 2005-2006 team for the best 5v5 regular season in school history with an 18-3 overall record and became just the fourth team in 5v5 history to win 18 games regular season or postseason.

“18 wins is great, right? “ Forest City coach Matt Erpelding said. “One of our main goals was to win the conference championship outright, and we couldn’t accomplish that, so that kind of stings a little.” 

Complete Coaches Corner Program from this morning  (2/10) with Coach Erpleding.

The Indians finished second in conference play to Bishop Garrigan, one win out of a share of first place. This is Forest City’s best finish in the rugged TIC West since 2018-2019 when the Indians tied with North Union for second place behind West Hancock.

How tough is the TIC West? Well, the champion has played for a state title for five consecutive years. West Hancock in 2019, and Bishop Garrigan has played for four straight and won two the past two years. While the Golden Bears looked primed for another title fight, another team hopes to get their crack at the eight-team bracket in Des Moines. The #12 Indians will start that chase tonight when they open in Class 3A Region 4 with a quarterfinal tilt with New Hampton.

Girls in Forest City took the floor for the first time on December 13th, 1971, under the first-ever coach, Frank Munch. Munch, known for leading the Forest City track team for a long time, guided the Indians to a 5-5 record in their inaugural season. Only ten games were played because most schools had schedules designed for 1971-’72 before Forest City decided to add girls’ basketball.

As previously mentioned, the Indians have had successes over the past 53 years. Forest City had two 20-win seasons in 1974-’75 and ’75-7’6, including reaching the game before state in 1975, finishing the year 22-2 but losing in the final to #4 Hampton.

In the 80s, the team won two conference titles with two 15-win seasons in the mid-80s.

In the ’90s, the Indians switched to 5v5 girls basketball to start the 1993-1994 season. In 1995, Forest City’s all-time winnest coach, Chad Angel, took over and guided the Indians to their first 5v5 postseason win in 1996 over Clear Lake when Steph Swingen made the winning basket with 15 seconds remaining. She finished with 14 points in the contests, while Jackie Holland led the Indians with 17.

The 1999-00 team won the conference title and made the first 5v5 regional final. It was the first time Forest City had played in a regional final since losing to Hampton in 1975, and again, Hampton sent Forest City packing 66-37 in a game played in Clear Lake.

Following a successful 2004-2005 season, the Indians were ready to make a run during the 2005-2006. Forest City was primarily led by seniors and a young freshman named Jessica Spada, who still sits in the top 5 in games played and top 10 in points scored. This group of young ladies finished the regular season 18-3 and won the North Iowa Conference but had to travel to Webster City for the opening night of the postseason play and, in heartbreaking fashion, fell on a buzzer-beater to the Lynx, 35-34.

Forest City went 4-10 in the postseason from 2007 until they reached the school’s second 5v5 regional final in 2017. The 2017 team, led by now assistant coach Hannah Anderson and classmate Brea Dillavou, won the Top of Iowa Conference Championship and played for a trip to state but fell to Sioux Center, 72-50. Sioux Center later finished as the state runner-up, losing in the title game to Pocahontas Area, which the great Elle Ruffridge led.

The following year, Anderson and Dillavou pushed the Indians to a 17-4 regular season, finishing second in the conference, and were upset at home by Algona in the regional semifinal, ending the year 18-5.

In 2022, Forest City reached its third 5v5 regional final, led by current Missouri St. Louis guard Shae Dillavou and classmate Regan Helgeson, but the Indians came up short to West Lyon 45-33. West Lyon was paced by Brooklyn Meyer, who is averaging almost 16 points per game as a sophomore at South Dakota State University. 

Now, here we are in 2024, the 53rd year of girls basketball and 31st of 5v5 girls basketball at Forest City. The Indians will start the chase to Wells Fargo Arena and the school’s first-ever appearance at the state basketball tournament.

Forest City is 13-4 all-time in postseason games played on its home floor and hasn’t lost a home postseason game since that 2018 upset by Algona in the semifinals. They’ve won five consecutive and 11 of their last 12 at home.

Forest City has a new opponent in New Hampton. The Indians and Chickasaws have never met in 5v5 girls’ basketball but did meet in volleyball just a couple of months ago.

New Hampton is 6-15 and led by junior Taylor Ries, who averages 13 points per game and shoots 38.6% from the floor. She is followed by freshman Ava Leichtman, who averages 12 points per game, and Molly Wegner, a senior, who averages almost nine. The New Hampton leaders are guards and don’t have much inside size compared to Forest City. The Chickasaws, like the Indians, run the court and will look to score points in transition.

If Forest City’s Emma Anderson hits the court tonight, she will play in her 90th career game in a Forest City uniform. The senior played all 21 regular season games, starting in 20. Forest City is closing in on another program first, less than 100 points from becoming the first in 5v5 history to score 1300 points in a season. The 2016-2017 team was oh-so-close, scoring 1,297. The ’17-’18 and ’21-’22 teams also came close.
The pregame show for tonight’s game is set for 6:45 PM and tipoff at 7:00 PM.
You can watch the game live here on or listen on 107.3 FM.




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