One big scoring run was enough to produce a state championship for Estherville-Lincoln Central
With both teams struggling to make shots, ELC finally found some consistency midway through the second half, ran off 13 straight points and beat Ballard 44-30 to win the Class 3A state championship.
Freshman Haylee Stokes led the way with 24 points and was named captain of the all-tournament team as ELC (26-2) claimed its second state title after a waiting four decades for it happen. The school’s first championship came in the six-player game in 1982.
Ballard (23-4) dropped down a class this season after winning the 4A title a year ago. It’s the second runner-up finish for the Bombers, who also won a state title in 2009.
Jordyn Stokes added nine points for ELC, while Jaydan Nitchals had six points and 14 rebounds. All-tournament selection Kaitlyn Tendal had five points, four rebounds and two steals.
Brooke Loewe led Ballard with 13 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals. Meg Rietz scored six for the Bombers, who managed only 23 points through the first three quarters and shot just 23.4 percent.
A key for ELC was the ability of Haylee Stokes and the other perimeter players to drive to the basket to get layups or draw fouls. Stokes went 13-for-14 on free throws and ELC made 20-of-24 as a team. Ballard was only 2-for-6 at the line.
Even with its shooting problems, Ballard led for most of the first half and was up 18-15 after Paige Noe hit a 3-pointer with 2:42 left in the half. But the Bombers did not make another shot until the third quarter and ELC capitalized.
Jordyn Stokes got a basket inside, Haylee Stokes and Tendal each drove for a bucket and Haylee buried a 3 from the top of the key for a 24-18 halftime lead. Jordyn Stokes scored on another drove for the first basket of the second half to stretch the lead to 26-18 and that would be more than Ballard could overcome.
When the Bombers had to foul to get the ball back, ELC rarely missed, making 16 of its 19 free throws in the fourth quarter to polish off its championship.
Loewe also was named to the all-tournament team, along with teammate Lily Beall, West Lyon’s Brooklyn Meyer and Unity Christian’s Tyra Schuiteman.