MONROE — When the PCM girls’ basketball team needed a bucket to hold off a Greene County run in the third quarter, head coach Jeff Lindsay dialed up a few post plays for his all-state point guard.
Sophomore Regan Freland used her height advantage to score back-to-back buckets inside the lane and then Freland’s pull-up jumper gave the Mustangs a nine-point lead heading into the final quarter.
Freland scored 22 points in all, and the Mustangs held off a stingy Greene County squad at home, 35-27, during a Heart of Iowa Conference contest on Feb. 2.
“We tried to give her a different scenery. Also, it’s about matchups,” Lindsay said about Freland’s post presence. “She’s a taller guard. She’s not being guarded by post players in there. She will be stronger and taller than most of the players guarding her in there.
“When she decides to just be strong in there and not hurry, she’s very successful. That’s something we do when the shots aren’t falling from outside.”
Freland scored eight points in the first quarter, and the Mustangs were off and a running with a 13-2 lead.
Greene County rallied behind Laurin Lyons in the second though. Lyons scored six straight points and eight total in the period to cut the Rams’ deficit to 17-12 at halftime.
“We weren’t settling for things on offense. We were moving and setting screens,” Lindsay said about the first quarter. “Then once we took the press off, we stopped doing those things. We started to relax on defense and started standing on offense after that. The flow just wasn’t there. We just didn’t do a very good job during that stretch.”
The press was effective in the first quarter. Lindsay pulled it off in the second to give his team a little breather. He intended to go back to the press at some point, but the Rams 5-13 overall, 2-11 in the HOIC) took advantage on the scoreboard first.
PCM (6-14, 4-9) helped out the Rams by not moving on offense and relaxing on defense.
“We had been better in those areas lately. We just hoped it had ironed itself out,” Lindsay said. “Unfortunately, it showed back up and we have to get it fixed before next week if we want to move on in the playoffs.”
Starting junior center Morgan Uhlenhopp picked up her fourth foul early in the third quarter. She missed most of the second half, but the rest of her teammates picked up their play.
Freland scored eight more points in the third, and her final bucket put the Mustangs up 25-16 with one quarter to go.
Her own 9-0 run extended the lead to 28-16 early in the fourth.
Lyons got the Rams’ deficit down to single digits two different times in the frame, but Freland, Uhlenhopp and junior Mackenzie Bussan all hit free throws in the final minutes to keep Greene County at arm’s length.
The Mustangs’ roster has no seniors, but they did not panic even after losing one of their oldest players in Uhlenhopp to foul trouble.
“All of the players who are new the varsity this year have all improved,” Lindsay said. “They are getting too comfortable in their skin. They want to take their game to the next level. That might be why they are hurrying some. I am OK with that though. It’s part of the process of developing young players.”
Freland was the only Mustang in double figures. She also had four rebounds and three steals.
Junior Camryn Wignall finished with four points, four rebounds, four steals and three assists and Uhlenhopp added four points and eight rebounds.
Sophomore Sierra Foster grabbed eight boards and tallied three steals and Bussan chipped in three points and four rebounds.
The Mustangs open Class 3A postseason play against South Tama County at 7 p.m. on Feb. 10 in Tama.
North Polk 68, PCM 38
MONROE — Lindsay got some unfortunate news on Jan. 29 regarding his second leading scorer in freshman Lilli Baird.
Baird’s MRI over the weekend revealed another torn ACL. She’ll miss the rest of the season.
That forces Lindsay’s hand even more when it comes to getting his program ready for next season. The current season is not over, but with so many players on his roster back next year, and the conference championship out of reach, Lindsay has shifted some of his attention to 2018-19.
Lindsay played 12 girls on Feb. 30 against Class 3A No. 13 North Polk. And after a solid start, the Comets pulled away in the second half during a 68-38 road victory.
The Comets outscored PCM 32-12 in the second half.
“We came out flat and just stalled out,” Lindsay said of the second half. “Everyone was standing and watching. Nobody was moving offensively. We started getting opportunities eventually, but we stood around waiting for someone else to do something instead of working together as a team.”
Freland put in a game-high 22 points for PCM, but no other Mustang scored in double-figures. PCM hit on just 14-of-56 from the floor and 6-of-15 from the free-throw line.
North Polk jumped out to a 10-2 lead early in the first half. After a Lindsay timeout, PCM rallied to close the gap to 17-15 after one quarter.
Foster recorded a three-point play and Freland buried a trey to close the gap.
“They were beating us up and down the floor. We spoke about that before the game. We had to get back on defense,” Lindsay said. “We talked about getting tougher in the timeout. We went to a zone defense, too, and that helped with the penetration they were getting early.”
PCM stayed close early in the second quarter, but a 9-0 run by the Comets pushed their lead to 28-17. Jaedon Murphy scored five of her 13 points during that stretch.
Freland and Comet freshman Maggie Phipps traded 3-pointers to finish off the second quarter. Freland had 15 of her 22 in the first half and Phipps put in 11 of her 21 in the first two quarters.
The Comets outscored PCM 18-4 in the third to extend their lead. They began the frame with 12 straight points and never led by less than 20 the rest of the way.
Foster scored all five of her points in the first quarter for PCM. Sophomore Alexis Kuecker tallied four points, Uhlenhopp grabbed seven rebounds and Freland added five boards, two steals and two assists to her 22 points.
Lindsay is giving opportunities to more and more players with each game. The loss to the Comets was the Mustangs’ eighth in their last nine games.
“It’s to give the kids experience for future seasons. We are still learning at the varsity level. I still don’t know if we’ve learned the speed of varsity basketball,” Lindsay said. “I am also trying to give some opportunities to some girls who have earned it. I am trying to build some depth moving forward. I want to give them a taste of what this level is like and what it’s going to take to win in the future.”
North Polk (17-3) finished in a three-way tie for first place in the HOIC with No. 6 Nevada and No. 7 Roland-Story. All three programs were 12-2 in conference action this season.