A steady presence at the free throw line and some solid defense sent Estherville-Lincoln Central into the Class 3A semifinals.
Senior Kaitlyn Tendal scored 17 points and freshman Haylee Stokes added 16 to lead ELC past Sergeant Bluff-Luton 49-34 for its 12th straight victory.
Fourth-seeded ELC, making its eighth trip to state, will take a 24-2 record against top-seeded and defending champion Unity Christian in a semifinal game at 1:30 p.m. Thursday. Fifth-seeded Sergeant Bluff-Luton, playing in the state tournament for the second time, finishes 20-5.
Sergeant Bluff-Luton missed its first nine shots in falling behind 13-3 and could not recover. Emma Salker led the Warriors with 11 points and nine rebounds, while Maddie Hinkel had nine points, five rebounds and two assists.
ELC shot just 29 percent (11-for-38) but compensated by making 24 of 34 free throws, Stokes going 10-for-11 at the line and Tendal 7-for-9. Stokes, who shows star potential in her first year of high school ball, added five rebounds, five steals, four assists and a block to her stat line.
ELC held the Warriors without a basket until Katelyn Sale converted a three-point play at the 5:48 mark in the second quarter. ELC led 23-15 at halftime and the Warriors never got closer than six points after that.
It was 33-22 after three quarters and the lead grew to as much as 16. Sergeant Bluff-Luton dropped in four 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, but ELC kept making its free throws to stay safely ahead.