DES MOINES — Aplington-Parkersburg wasn’t going to back down.
Making the program’s first state tournament appearance since 2013, the Falcons were up against a veteran Central Decatur squad making its fourth consecutive trip to Wells Fargo Arena Wednesday in a Class 2A girls’ state basketball quarterfinal.
The newcomers showed early that they belonged as A-P stormed out to a 23-11 first-quarter lead. But the poise and experience of the Cardinals prevailed over the final three quarters as Central Decatur rallied for a 57-49 victory.
“You could tell they had the experience of being down here,” A-P junior guard Sophia Jungling said. “This was our first year. You could see that difference. We got a little more jittery, which caused us to make a few more mistakes, while they were more confident because they’d played here before.”
Aplington-Parkersburg showed few jitters early. Megan Johnson hit a 3-pointer and then an offensive putback. Then Johnson, Jenna Bruns and Karson DeGroote hit back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Falcons a 16-2 lead with 3:20 left in the first.
Johnson finished with 13 first-quarter points.
“We wanted to come out and prove ourselves,” Johnson said. “We knew we needed a strong start and that was just a mentality, so we knew we had to come out of the gate and push.”
Central Decatur, behind 1,000-point career scorers Alli Masters and Emma Atwood, used its length and athleticism to chip away at the Falcons’ lead.
“That was a little bit of a wake-up call,” Atwood said of the first quarter.
Coming after A-P over every inch of the 90-foot floor, the Cardinals began to take advantage of the Falcons’ aggressive nature. After committing just two turnovers in the opening quarter, the fast and free A-P squad committed 20 over the final three, many of them unforced overthrows or forced passes.
Central Decatur closed the first half on a 6-0 run, including a follow and putback by Atwood at the first-half buzzer that trimmed the deficit to 27-22. That was one of the Cardinals’ 13 offensive rebounds and two of their 14 second-chance points,
“This team, we come and try to play with our hair on fire,” said A-P head coach Jason Berkey. “We are not good when we have to slow it down and run a half-court offense. We are better when we are playing with our hair on fire.”
A-P still led 31-24 when the Cardinals made their decisive run midway through the third period. Erica Kauzlarich made back-to-back 3-pointers, her only points of the game, to cap an 8-0 run that gave Central Decatur its first lead of the game.
The lead changed six more times over the next eight minutes. A steal and layup by Jungling gave A-P a 39-38 lead, only to see Central Decatur answer. Then Ainsley Brungard gave the Falcons their last lead with a short jumper with 4:51 left, but Masters made a nifty drive and layup seconds later that made it 42-41, and the Cardinals led the rest of the way.
“We knew they were going to come back, and we didn’t want to panic,” Berkey said. “They made a few key shots, and we didn’t get enough stops. Give credit to them.”
Johnson led the Falcons, who return four starters. with 17 points. Masters led all scorers with 21, while Atwood had 15. The Cardinals blocked nine A-P shots.
C. Decatur 57, Apl.-Park. 49
APLINGTON-PARKERSBURG (23-3) — Sophia Jungling 3-9 1-4 8, Megan Johnson 6-10 2-2 17, Jenna Bruns 2-6 3-3 8, Avari Everts 2-6 2-2 6, Jaycie Ellis 1-1 0-1 2, Karson DeGroote 2-4 0-0 5, Ainsley Brungard 1-1 1-2 3, McKenna Oldenburger 0-4 0-0 0. Totals 17-41 9-13 49.
CENTRAL DECATUR (23-0) — Alli Masters 6-13 6-8 21, Abbie Ridgeway 1-9 2-2 4, Maizee Lindsey 0-8 0-0 0, Emma Atwood 5-11 5-8 15,Erica Kauzlarich 2-5 0-0 6, Riley Bell 0-2 3-4 3, Alaina Applegate 3-3 2-2 8. Totals 17-51 18-24 57.
Apl.-Parkersburg 23 4 8 14 — 49
Central Decatur 11 11 16 19 — 57
3-point goals — A-P 6-13 (Jungling 1-4, Johnson 3-4, Bruns 1-2, Everts 0-1, DeGroote 1-2). Central Decatur 5-25 (Masters 3-5, Ridgway 0-7, Lindsey 0-6, Atwood 0-1, Kauzlarich 2-5, Bell 0-1). Rebounds — A-P 34 (Johnson 7). Central Decatur 31 (Atwood 8). Assists — A-P 9 (Jungling 2, Johnson 2, Everts 2). Central Decatur 9 (Four with two). Turnovers — A-P 22 (Bruns 6). Central Decatur 12 (Masters 5). Total fouls — A-P 18, Central Decatur 14. Fouled out — Everts.