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DES MOINES — Back-to-back-to-back-to-back.

With a suffocating and relentless defensive effort, second-ranked Cedar Falls earned its fourth consecutive Class 5A girls’ state basketball tournament trip with a 62-40 win over Dubuque Hempstead in Wednesday’s regional finals.

“It never gets old. It’s always a new experience,” said Cynthia Wolf, one of four seniors in Cedar Falls’ regular rotation. “We’re so blessed for the opportunity to go down again.”

The Tigers (22-1) will open state play against seventh-seeded Indianola (20-3) Monday at 3:15 p.m. inside Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.

“Every year it is just as much fun because every year we know how much work and effort it takes to get there,” added Cedar Falls head coach Gregg Groen.

After waiting a day to play the game after it was postponed Tuesday, Cedar Falls didn’t have its most efficient offensive night, but the Tigers were never threatened by a Mustang team that it had already beaten, 64-41 on Nov. 28.

Hempstead, with nobody taller than 6-feet, simply had no match for the length and athleticism of a Cedar Falls team that did not start a player shorter than 5-foot-9 Kamryn Finley.

The defensive effort more than made up for a sluggish offensive effort that saw Cedar Falls miss many bunnies in a 25 of 58 shooting night.

“One of the things we talked about a lot during the week since Saturday’s game (a nine-point win over Ames in the regional semifinals), was bringing a little more energy and playing with a bit more purpose, and I thought we did that tonight, especially on the defensive end,” Groen said. “I think our defensive effort helped us create some things offensively.”

The Tigers opened the game on a 9-0 run as Hempstead (16-7) didn’t score for the first 4 minutes, 37 seconds.

Cedar Falls led 15-4 after one quarter, and a Kiana Barney inside hoop made the score 17-7 with 6:37 left in the second quarter. The Tigers’ lead never slipped under double digits again.

“At the beginning of the game it was a little hard for us to get started, but we had a lot of energy coming out and that is what our main focus was,” Kiana Barney said.

The Tigers’ biggest lead was 58-31 with 2:53 left in the game.

Wolf led Cedar Falls with 14 points, while Finley had 11.

The Tigers now turn their focus to Indianola and making another run at the 5A title game, which it dropped 71-59 to West Des Moines Valley last March.

“This is exciting. It is my favorite time of the year,” Barney said. “We are a close team, and we definitely don’t want to feel the way we did last year, because we were so close to getting it done.”

Ced. Falls 62, Hempstead 40

DUBUQUE HEMPSTEAD (16-7) — Mackenzie Paulsen 1-5 0-0 3, Kayilee Springer 4-10 7-8 16, Morgan Krug 2-4 2-3 6, Madison Fleckenstein 1-7 3-3 5, Riley Kay 1-4 2-3 4, Corinne Meier 1-5 4-6 6, Katie Schaul 0-0 0-0 0, Riley Bleymeyer 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 10-35 18-23 40.

CEDAR FALLS (22-1) — Anaya Barney 4-9 0-0 9, Emerson Green 2-9 2-2 7, Kamryn Finley 5-11 1-2 11, Kiana Barney 4-14 1-2 9, Cynthia Wolf 6-9 1-1 14, McKenna Gleason 1-1 0-0 3, Olivia Remmert 1-1 0-0 3, Grace Burken 1-2 1-2 3, Lexie Godrey 0-0 0-0 0, Morgan Sterrett 0-1 0-0 0, Cara Forsblom 0-0 1-2 1, Allison Eagen 1-1 0-0 0 2, Kaylie Kleinschmidt 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-58 7-11 62.

Hempstead 4 11 11 14 — 40

Cedar Falls 15 17 16 14 — 62

3-point goals — Hempstead 2 (Paulsen, Springer). Cedar Falls 5 (A. Barney. Green, Wolf, Gleason, Remmert). Total fouls — Hempstead 14, Cedar Falls 17. Fouled out — none.

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Sports Reporter

Sports reporter for The Courier

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