Exira-EHK coach Tom Petersen talks with sophomore Ellie Schultes (22) and freshman Tatum Grubbs during last week’s regional final game.

Tough first-round game awaits Spartans at state

Class 1A Girls State Basketball Tournament Quarterfinal -- Exira-EHK (23-1) vs. AGWSR (21-2)

 DES MOINES (Feb. 28) -- At least on paper, Wednesday’s Class 1A girls state basketball quarterfinal between Exira-Elk Horn-Kimballton and AGWSR looks like a great 4 vs. 5-seed matchup.
 The 7th-ranked Spartans (23-1) and No. 8 Cougars (21-2) will tip things off at 3:15 p.m. inside Wells Fargo Arena as the second of four 1A first round games. The winner will return to Des Moines Friday at 1:30 for a semifinal against either No. 1 Springville (the two-time defending champion) or Algona Bishop Garrigan.
 Exira-EHK and AGWSR - the conglomeration of Ackley, Geneva, Wellsburg and Steamboat Rock - have both posted some impressive numbers on the season. The Spartans average 66.4 points per game while making 144 three-pointers and totaling 292 offensive rebounds and 401 steals. The Cougars average 64.7 points while totaling 154 threes, 322 offensive boards and 327 steals.
 AGWSR shoots it better from the field - 47 percent overall and 42 percent from three-point range compared to E-EHK’s 40 percent and 32 percent, respectively - but the Spartans have an advantage at the free throw line in both attempts (405 to 307) and accuracy (.672 to .648).
 Two keys for Exira-EHK will be perimeter defense and rebounding. AGWSR has size inside and its top two scorers, senior Mandy Willems (18.8 ppg.) and junior Aubrie Fisher (13.4) both shoot around the 50 percent mark from three-point range while combining to hit 127 treys.
 While AGWSR is making its first trip to state since winning the 1A title in 2009 (one year before Exira won it all), the Spartans are back in Des Moines for the fourth straight year, led by seniors Sophia Peppers and Kealey Nelson.

Class 1A Pairings & Schedule
Quarterfinals: Wednesday, February 28
1:30 p.m. - #1 Springville (21-3) vs. #8 Algona Bishop Garrigan (17-7)
3:15 p.m. - #4 Exira-Elk Horn-Kimballton (23-1) vs. #5 AGWSR (21-2)
5:00 p.m. - #3 Newell-Fonda (24-0) vs. #6 Kee (22-1)
6:45 p.m. - #2 Central Decatur (24-0) vs. #7 Montezuma (20-3)
Semifinals: Friday, March 2
1:30 p.m. - Springville or Bishop Garrigan vs. Exira-EHK or AGWSR
3:15 p.m. - Newell-Fonda or Kee vs. Central Decatur or Montezuma
Championship Game: Saturday, March 3 -- 7:00 p.m.

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