Nicole McDermott and suffocating defense continue to produce a winning formula for Cascade.
McDermott scored 19 points and top-seeded Cascade held Denver to one field goal in the first half en route to a 41-28 victory in the opening game of the Class 2A tournament. The Cougars improved to 26-0 and are in the state semifinals for the sixth time in the last eight years. They'll continue their bid for a second championship in three years in a semifinal game at 10 a.m. Friday.
Beyond McDermott, Cascade wasn't sharp offensively. But it didn't matter because the Cougars held Denver for 1-for-16 shooting in the first half in building a 26-8 lead. They came up with 11 steals while forcing 19 turnovers.
To the Cyclones' credit, they stayed with it and ended up outscoring Cascade 20-15 in the second half. They just had too much ground to make up.
McDermott, 5-foot-6 senior who has signed with the University of Dubuque, scored in a variety of ways in making 9 of 15 shots -- baseline drives, pull-up jumpers and even a couple of putbacks. She finished with four rebounds, three assists and two steals. Ally Hoffman added eight points and 10 rebounds for the Cougars, while Jordan Simon scored seven.
Jaden McMahon and Reese Johnson led Denver with eight points each.
Denver, which started only one senior, season, began the season with four straight losses before recovering to earn its first state tournament trip since 2009. The Cyclones finish with a 17-9 record.