Class 3A State Championship
Sioux Center 62, Benton Community 47

Sioux Center dominated around the basket, cashed in at the free throw line and is taking home a state championship as its reward.

The Warriors got 17 points from Willow Bleeker and 16 from Tatum Schmalbeck in defeating Benton Community 62-47 to claim the Class 3A title. It’s the first championship for the Warriors and veteran coach Doug Winterfeld, who guided them runner-up finishes in 3A in 2017 and 2018.

Sioux Center used its size advantage to keep Benton away from the basket and built a 27-10 edge in points in the paint. The Warriors also got themselves to the free throw line, making 20 of 30, mostly because of Bleeker and Schmalbeck.

Bleeker, the all-tournament captain, made all nine of her free throws. Schmalbeck, who also made the all-tournament team, was 3-for-3.

Benton went just 4-for-10 from the line and had to rely on its 3-point shooting to try to keep it close. It worked for a while, but the Warriors’ inside play eventually made the difference. Nine of Benton’s 17 field goals and 27 of its 47 shots came from 3-point range.

Jenna Twedt led Benton with 21 points and McKenna Kramer added 15. They combined to go 7-for-19 from deep. Twedt also handed out five assists and grabbed four rebounds. The Bobcats’ Emma Townsley was the game’s top rebounder with eight and scored two points.

Sioux Center didn’t begin to gain some distance from Benton until scoring seven straight points late in the first half to go up 24-14. Townsley banked in a runner for her only points to cut the lead to 24-16 at halftime, but Bleeker and Makenna Walhof, who finished with nine points, each scored to start the second half to put the Warriors up 28-16.

The lead fell below double figures only twice after the Warriors led by as many as 16 as they continued to get to the basket and make free throws.

Sioux Center closes its memorable season with a 21-5 record. Four of those losses were to tournament qualifiers. Benton, which had been winless in four state tournament games before this year, closes with a 23-4 record.

Twedt and Kramer also made the all-tournament team along with Solon’s Hailey Miller and Vinton-Shellsburg’s Alyssa Griffith.