JOB NOT DONE: Forest City’s Girls Basketball Team is Dancin’ in Des Moines

After 53 years and 1112 games, Forest City’s girls basketball team has qualified for the state basketball tournament for the first time, beating #5 Roland-Story – 67-55.

Forest City’s relentless defense kept a high-power Roland-Story offense from scoring a field goal for over half of the opening quarter. It took until 3:53 remaining, when junior Kamryn Lande finally broke through for the Norse. If not for Forest City putting Roland-Story to the charity stripe 13 times in the first quarter, the Indians’ 11-point lead could’ve been more significant.

A Norse team that shoots roughly 27 three-pointers per night and makes 8 to 9 of them was held without one of those until junior Clarie Truesdell splashed her first of two in the second quarter at the 3:21 mark trying to give Roland-Story some life. But when the dust settled in the opening half, Forest City’s first quarter 11-point lead had been stretched to 12, and they were up 33-21.

“It’s zero-zero,” said Forest City junior Coletee Loges of the Indian’s halftime lead. “That’s something (Coach Matt Erpleding) stresses a lot, and just keep pushing and extending the lead,” she added.

Loges had two big threes for the Indians, one in the first quarter and one in the second, and she helped ice the game down the stretch, going 6 of 8 from the free throw line in the second half for a total of 16 points on the night.

Roland-Story was going to make a charge at some point. Led by a coach, that is very possible to be an IGHSAU Hall of Fame player at some point. Maddie (Oliver) Gelber’s squad got a boost from 6-woman and freshman Riley Johnson, who scored 18 of her career-high 22 points in the second half. Johnson came in averaging five points per night, but with Forest City’s focus on Truesdell, Ihle, Motta, Lande, and Jones, someone had to find space for Roland-Story, and that was Johnson. At the same time, as she was scoring a bunch of points trying to help her team climb back into the contest, her brother, Hesston, was wrestling in the Class 2A 175 state championship match, where he finished as the state runner-up.

Forest City survived the Rolnad-Story second-half run that saw the Indians’ 23-point lead at its largest shrink to just five to win the game at the free throw line late. Along with Loges’ performance, sophomore Hayden Brown went eight of nine from the line for the game and five of six in the second half. She ended her night with a team-high 18 points while navigating foul trouble. Brown picked up two fouls in the first quarter and a third in the third quarter but was able to stay in the game to help the team.

Dru Seglem (4) and Brenin Giesen (2) gave the Indians some bench points and defensive minutes. Meanwhile, other starters, Lexi Isebrand and Emma Anderson, both had four points but were there to do what they do best. Lexi scrapped for rebounds and played defensive, while Emma facilitated the offense and racked up more assists and steals. Emma also tied the great Shae Dillavou for the most games ever played in a Forest City uniform with her 92.

Bethany Warren used her state track and XC speed to run the floor, score 10 points, and grab some offensive boards. Jaden Jerome knocked down three massive three-pointers, while Zoey Holmes came in to give the Indians minutes defensively, trying to stop the Norse from driving inside for easy baskets.

Aubrey Miller, Rylie Miller, Jette Lueer, Stella Lackore, and Jenna Dontje brought the energy and kept the spirits high – indeed, a team win from start to finish.

This was Forest City’s fourth regional final and the second in three years. It was also Forest City’s 50th 5-on-5 postseason game and their 20th postseason win. The win gave the program win number 601, that’s 5-player and 6-player combined and win 377 in just 5-player playing the 674th 5-player game all-time. More importantly, the win sends the team to Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines to play in the eight-team IGHSAU Class 3A State Basketball Tournament next Monday, February 26th, at 5:00 PM.

The girls were welcomed home in grand style last night, arriving back to Forest City around 11:00 PM.

Now for the matchup with Estherville.

The Midgets are as good as advertised and are the favorite to win the 3A title for a reason. Led by Hall of Fame coach Don Martindale, the midgets pride themselves on defense and turning that into offense on the other side.

Martindale took over the Estherville-Lincoln Central program in 2017 and went 8-15 that first year after spending 17 years as Spencer’s head coach. Martindale took four Tiger teams to the state tournament at Spencer, failing to reach the semifinal in all four trips.

On his first trip in 2003, Norwalk upended him and the Tigers in the opening round of the Class 3A tournament. Now, remember, girls’ sports were in just four classes at that point, so 3A was the second-largest classification in Iowa. They returned in 2004, falling to Atlantic 40-35, and again in 2008, they lost in the opening round, this time to Marion 47-31, before returning in 2009. The 2009 season was heartbreaking for the Tigers, as they fell to Pella 52-51 and were led by 1st team all-time guard Brittany Peterson.

Suppose that name sounds familiar to those of us who have been around the block for a while. Peterson helped Martindale’s Tigers crush Forest City on their way to state in 2009, beating the Indians 69-29 in the regional semifinal.

As mentioned, in 2017-2018, Martindale tried his hand again with girls’ basketball, taking over the ELC program, which has done nothing but rise rapidly under his direction. He took them to state in 2019 and fell in the opening round, but the foundation was laid for the future. The Midgets were road warriors in 2019, having to go on the road for all three postseason games, upsetting Spirit Lake at SL, Algona at Algona, and then going to Sioux Center and upsetting them on their home floor to qualify at 14-11.

In the 2020 season, they were upset by Algona in the regional quarterfinals after going 15-6 in the regular season. In 2021, they went 18-6, falling to Unity Christian in the regional championship after they beat Forest City in the regional semifinals 60-48.

Then came the 2022 season. Martindale finally got a team to glory, beating Ballard 44-30 in the Class 3A State Championship game. It was ELC’s first 5v5 title and second in school history.

But then last year happened, heading to the state tournament 24-0. It seemed like ELC was untouchable and destined to cruise to back-to-back state championships. That was until 8th seed Vinton-Shellsburg rocked the state, knocking off the Midgets 54-46 and handing them their first loss.

Forest City will be looking to make that two straight 8 vs. 1 upsets next Monday, taking the floor in Des Moines for the first time.

Forest City and ELC have played 19 girls’ basketball games against each other, with Estherville winning 13 of them. In the postseason, it’s even more in favor of ELC. ELC has won four of the five postseason games the two teams have played. Forest City’s last postseason win vs. ELC came in the 2000 regional semifinal, which sent Forest City to their first 5-player regional final.

The game will be live on KIOW 107.3 FM, with the pregame show starting at 4:45 PM.






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