What a state tournament debut for Central Lyon.
The top-ranked Lions qualified for the first time this year and made the most of the opportunity by winning the Class 1A championship with a tense 63-61 victory over No. 2 Newell-Fonda.
Central Lyon survived a late charge by the Mustangs and the foul problems of star guard Lexi Ackerman, who was voted captain of the all-tournament team. Ackerman sat for almost seven minutes after picking up her fourth foul in the third quarter and fouled out with 4:07 left after scoring 12 points, grabbing eight rebounds and handing out five assists.
Kori Schulte led Central Lyon with 15 points and nine rebounds, while Ackerman's twin sister Kelsey added 11 points and six rebounds and helped run the team while Lexi was on the bench. The Lions also got a big lift from 5-foot-3 sophomore Angel Rasmussen, who hit two 3-pointers, grabbed four rebounds and handed out five assists.
"It's unbelievable," said Central Lyon Co-Head Coach Bruce Eckenrod. "First title in the first time down here at the state tournament. You know we're known for football and now hopefully we can get our girls basketball program right up there with it."
"We're making history," said Kori Schulte. "We wanted to go all the way and we knew we could. We just got to it, and got after it."
Renee Maneman's 18 points led Newell-Fonda, which finished as the state runner-up for the fourth time. She also grabbed 10 rebounds and had seven assists. Claudia Larsen and Andrea Christensen each scored 12 points for the Mustangs and Tailer Schrank scored 11.
Central Lyon seemed to be in total control when it took a 56-41 lead on Kelsey Ackerman's 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter. But the Mustangs roared back with a 15-1 run that Schrank capped with back-to-back 3-pointers from the left corner.
That drew the Mustangs to 57-56, but Schulte's steady free throw shooting down the stretch helped keep the Lions in the lead. She sank five of six from the line in the final 3:01, dropping in a last foul shot with 3.1 seconds remaining for the game's final point.
"If we had two more seconds maybe we could have gotten a buzzer beater," said Newell-Fonda Head Coach Dick Jungers. "It's just one of those things your kids will remeber for the rest of their lives. "
The two teams went back and forth through the first half, which had 10 ties and six lead changes before Rasmussen and Wynter Roths hit back-to-back 3s to put the Lions up 35-30. They led the rest of the way and finished with a 26-2 record. Newell-Fonda finished 24-3.
Maneman, Schulte and Christensen also were named to the all-tournament team, along with Morgan Myers of Burlington Notre Dame and Danielle Bender of Marquette Catholic.
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