(HARLAN) The Harlan Cyclones have won 22 games this season and now need just two more to claim their first ever state title in girls basketball.
Harlan passed the test provided by Benton Community in the first round 52-42. The Cyclones led 9-2 in the early going, but then gave up a 14-0 run to trail 16-9 early in the second quarter. Late in the second quarter however Harlan inched closer and then tied it up at 22 with a Liz Riessen three-pointer right before the first half horn. Riessen would also hit another three plus hit all four of her free throw attempts to be one of three Cyclones to score in double figures.
Harlan's shift to a 2-3 zone defense to start the second half held Benton Community scoreless for the first four plus minutes of the third quarter. During that time, Harlan built a 29-22 lead, only to see the Bobcats claw right back late in the quarter to make it a 32-30 game. That's when Harlan Sophomore Taylor Wegner scored a driving layup right at the end of the third quarter to give the Cyclones a four point lead and some momentum. In the fourth quarter, Benton Community cut the deficit to a one possession game on multiple occassions, but never delivered the big shot to take the lead.
Meanwhile Harlan was busy sinking 12/16 from the free throw line in the second half to put the game away. Also aiding in the effort to oust the Bobcats was Elle Kloewer's three steals in the closing minutes.
Kloewer scored a game high 11 points and the Cyclones got 10 each from Riessen and Jess Schaben. UNI recruit Madison Weekly, who came in averaging 18.8 per game for 3rd ranked Benton, was held to 11 points.
Harlan head coach Zach Klaassen commented after the game on his team's ability to close out a tight contest.
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Coach Klaassen on what the win means for the program.
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#8 Harlan improves to 22-2 heading into the state semi-finals on Thursday at 6:45 p.m. They will take on #2 (22-2) Waverly-Shell Rock who downed Winterset 67-45.