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Jim Ecker, President & Editor

Brandt taking Lions back to state


Jaime Printy Brandt is heading back to the girls state basketball tournament with the Linn-Mar Lions next week, only this time she's going as their young head coach instead of their star player.

It feels just as sweet.

The sixth-ranked Lions defeated Dowling Catholic, 61-49, in the Class 5A regional finals Tuesday night behind a pair of sensational performances by Megan Murphy and Kamryn Finley.

Brandt played in three state tournaments with Linn-Mar in 2006, 2008 and 2009. She made her first trip as a 15-year-old freshman and now she'll make this trip as a 25-year-old head coach.

Linn-Mar (19-4) will face Indianola (22-1) in the opening round of the state tournament at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 2 at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.

"It's exciting," Brandt said after hugging her players, her husband and just about everyone else in sight. "I think I was definitely a lot more nervous for tonight's game than as a player. I get a lot more nervous as a coach.

"It will be just as fun," she said about making another trip to Wells Fargo Arena. "I'm excited to make new memories with this group and get down there and see what we can do.

"I was telling our coaching staff that Des Moines is some of the best memories I have from high school. This is a special group, they get along so well. To be able to go down there and compete in the state tournament is going to be so rewarding."

Murphy and Finley, who are both sophomores, played the best all-around games of their careers at exactly the right time.

Murphy came off the bench and popped in seven 3-pointers for 21 points. Finley finished with the first double-double of her career with 19 points and a season-best 10 rebounds.

Murphy is a good 3-point shooter, but she hadn't hit more than four triples in a game this season. She came out firing against Dowling and finished 7-of-15 from long range, including a flurry of three 3-pointers in the first quarter to point the Lions in the right direction.

Murphy's confidence soared after she hit those first three triples.

"It boosted it a lot," she said. "My teammates have a bunch of confidence in me. They found me and I knocked them down."

Murphy had to wipe away tears of happiness before talking about the victory and the trip to Des Moines.

"It feels amazing," she exclaimed. "I've been dreaming about this for so long.

"I'm so pumped. I've been there a few times, but I've never played there. I'm so excited."

Linn-Mar scored the first nine points of the second half to snap a 28-28 tie and grab a 37-28 advantage, but Dowling scored 11 straight and zoomed into a 39-37 lead with Anna Wanek steering the way for the Maroons with four straight buckets.

Murphy responded with her fifth 3-pointer to put Linn-Mar in the lead at 40-39. Dowling tied, 40-40, but the Lions never trailed again. Murphy belted her sixth triple for a 43-40 edge and made her seventh 3-pointer for a 50-44 margin.

"She was huge," Brandt said. "She's a shooter, and I tell her every single day that she has to know it's going in.

"She hit a couple early and got that confidence. I told her, 'Every time you touch it, if you're open it goes up.' I'm really proud of her."

The Lions led, 52-47, heading into the last two minutes of the ballgame. Dowling had to foul, but they picked the wrong player if they thought Finley would be rattled.

Finley cashed two foul shots with 1:48 left for a 54-47 lead, cashed two more for a 56-47 advantage with 1:37 remaining and hit two more with 36.7 seconds left for a 58-47 bulge to clinch the game. She also missed the front end of a one-and-one during that stretch, but overall was 6-for-7 at crunch time and 8-for-9 for the game.

"Coach said they were going in and I knew they were going in," she remarked.

Finley gave herself a pep talk before the game, preparing herself for the biggest outing of her young career.

"I was just excited," she said. "I was telling myself, 'You have to come out and win. This is a big game.' And that's what I did. I got my team involved and it was just a great team win."

Brandt liked having Finley at the foul line in the last two minutes.

"She's one of the most competitive kids I've ever met," the coach said. "I just know at the end of a game she'll step up."

Amanda Ollinger scored eight quick points at the start of the game for the Lions, but Dowling switched to junk defenses shortly after that and kept two players in her vicinity much of the night. Ollinger finished with 14 points and nine rebounds, and the extra attention on the "Big O" helped Murphy get open for her 3-pointers from the corner.

"Whatever it takes to win," said Ollinger, an all-state forward who will play at Iowa next season. "I don't care if I have to score 50 points or if I have to score no points. It's all a team game. Our team stepped up tonight."

Wanke led Dowling (15-8) with 12 points. Becca Hittner scored 11.

Brandt is taking Linn-Mar to the state tournament in just her second year as a head coach. Dowling is coached by the veteran husband-and-wife team of Sharon and Bob Hanson, who led Dowling to state titles in 1992, 1996, 1998, 2000 and 2014.

"They've been around forever and they're two of the greatest coaches in high school basketball," Brandt said. "It was a great honor (to coach against them). They're great people and great coaches."

The other first-round pairings for the state tournament are Johnston (20-3) against Southeast Polk (18-5), Ankeny Centennial (20-3) against Davenport North (21-3), and Cedar Falls (21-2) against Waukee (17-5).

The semifinals will be played on Friday, March 4 with the finals on Saturday, March 5.

DOWLING (49): Gaber 2 0-0 6, Moses 2 2-2 7, Danner 1 0-0 3, Cataldo 0 0-0 0, Wanek 6 0-0 12, Filer 3 1-2 7, Hittner 3 5-6 11, Koethe 1 1-1 3. Totals 18 9-11 49.

LINN-MAR (61): Johnson 0 0-0 0, Akers 0 0-0 0, Frese 2 2-2 6, Lancial 0 1-2 1, Murphy 7 0-0 21, Spies 0 0-2 0, Finley 5 8-9 19, Larson 0 0-1 0, Ollinger 5 2-2 14. Totals 19 13-18 61.

Halftime - Linn-Mar 28, Dowling 28. 3-point goals - Dowling 4 (Gaber 2, Moses 1, Danner 1), Linn-Mar 9 (Murphy 7, Ollinger 2).

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 24 February 2016 08:29 )  

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