MMCRU ended Newell-Fonda’s championship run and now has a chance to win a title of its own.

The upstart Royals handled Newell-Fonda’s pressure, shot the ball well and made their free throws at the end in beating the three-time defending champions 66-62 in the Class 1A semifinals.

In the state tournament for just the second time, MMCRU (26-1) will go after its first state championship at 7 p.m. Saturday in the final game of the 2022 state tourney. It will be just the third time in the last 10 years that Newell-Fonda hasn’t been in the finals.

The top-seeded Mustangs (24-2) usually harass teams into submission with unrelenting pressure defense that produces turnovers and points in bunches. But they never had a run of more than five points in this one and the Royals often beat the pressure for layups.

MMCRU – it stands for Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn/Remsen-Union -- also had a height advantage with Ellie Hilbrands and Emily Dreckman, both 6-foot seniors, and outrebounded Newell-Fonda 35-26. And in a remarkable twist, the Royals had more points off turnovers than the Mustangs, 15-11.

Hilbrands led the winners with 22 points, including 2-for-2 from 3-point range and 6-for-6 at the free throw line. Taylor Harpenau added 17 points and Dreckman had 12 points and 13 rebounds. Junior guard Kora Alesch did most of the ballhandling and finished with 11 points and six assists.

Macy Sievers, the only senior starter, led Newell-Fonda with 14 points and seven assists. Sophomore Kierra Jungers and freshman Kinzee Hinders each scored 11 and junior Laney Hogrefe added 10. The loss snapped a 10-game state tournament winning streak, which matched the third longest of all-time, and was just the fourth setback for the Mustangs in their last 134 games.

The MMCRU players showed early on they would not succumb to Newell-Fonda’s pressure. The Royals were shooting 67 percent at one point – 12-for-18 – and though they trailed 36-33 at halftime, it was clear that Newell-Fonda was in for a game.

The Royals quickly tied the game at 36 on Harpenau’s 3 at the start of the third quarter and they went ahead to stay at 45-43 when Hilbrands got inside for a layup.

MMCRU stretched its lead to 54-46 early in the fourth quarter and that was enough to hold off the Mustangs, who got the game within one possession only once the rest of the way. The Royals secured their memorable victory by making 10 of 12 free throws in the final 4:24.

The Royals finished 23-for-32 at the line, shot 47.5 percent from the field and finished with 16 turnovers, an unusually low number against Newell-Fonda.