ROCKFORD – In a Class 2A regional semifinal game between two conference rivals that split their season series and tied at the top of the conference standings, the Rockford Lady Warriors opened the game in a manner that may have been unexpected between such evenly-matched opponents.
The Lady Warriors dominated at the defensive end of the floor, particularly in the first quarter, and used the defense to spark a 10-0 run over the first five minutes en route to a 49-34 victory over West Fork on Friday.
“We knew size-wise we didn’t match up with them,” Rockford coach Blake Hansen said. “We had to frustrate their guards.”
Rockford forced turnovers on each of the first three West Fork possessions and continued with a half-court zone that produced 19 turnovers over the first two quarters.
With the defense holding down the West Fork scoring, the Rockford offense got an early boost from sophomore forward Morgan Thieman.
Thieman, who averaged about seven points per game during the regular season, hit a jumper from the right wing for the first points of the game and then went off for 12 first-half points to lead the Lady Warriors to a 30-15 halftime advantage.
“I had a lot of energy,” Thieman said. “I hit my first shot and it gave us a lot of confidence.”
West Fork protected the ball much better after the intermission, but unfortunately for the Warhawks, they were unable to make shots consistently enough to make a run.
West Fork briefly cut the Rockford lead to 10 points early in the fourth quarter, but the Lady Warriors scored the next seven points to effectively put the game out of reach.
Thieman finished with 14 points for the game to lead all scorers.
Emma Staudt finished with 10 points, six rebounds and four steals for Rockford while Alyssa Staudt had four points but added 10 rebounds and six steals.
Lexi Jones led West Fork with 10 points and Kaitlyn Liekweg had seven.
With the win, Rockford improves to 20-3 on the season and moves within a game of its second state tournament appearance in three years.
“State is the ultimate goal,” Lady Warriors senior forward Madison McGregor said.
Rockford will play Monday against North Linn in a game at Aplington-Parkersburg High School in Parkersburg.
North Linn (23-1) downed Grundy Center 68-37 on Friday.