Creston girls basketball (8-3) picked up a big win over not only a state-ranked opponent, but a Hawkeye 10 Conference foe Friday night in a 63-58 win over Class 4A No. 12 Denison-Schleswig (7-2).
Pressure was applied early by the Class 4A No. 12 Panthers, attacking the rim with the combination of Kelsey Fields and Sam Dunphy.
The duo had a hand in the first seven scoring plays for the Panthers. Together, along with a bucket from Doryn Paup before the end of the first quarter, they put Creston ahead 16-11 through the first eight minutes.
The tandem continuted to score, but the Monarchs didn’t let the game slip. Keeping it at a one-possession game, the Panthers held the lead it gained since go-ahead free throws from Sam Dunphy in the first to make it 6-5 and never gave Denison-Schleswig a chance.
Ahead 27-21 at the half, Creston had big 3-pointers from Dunphy (her first since freshman year) and Rylie Driskell to keep the difference at six. An 11-2 run to close out the third quarter had the Panthers in full control at 46-31 entering the last eight minutes of play.
Denison-Schleswig made it interesting in the fourth, gaining 10 points on the Panthers in a 27-point frame, but never had a clean chance to take the lead. The Monarchs got as close as a five-point deficit, but six points from Driskell in the final minute and a half, all from the free-throw line, iced the game and put Denison-Schleswig to bed.
“It got a little close there at the end,” said Creston head coach Tony Neubauer. “But, it never got scary close where it got down to one possession. That was a good all around win and a good Hawkeye 10 basketball game.”
Creston’s new all-time leading scorer, Kelsey Fields, fouling out with 5:58 remaining in the game was a contributing factor into the Monarchs gaining ground. She finished with 10 points and seven rebounds.
“Our kids kept our composure and never let it get down to one possession,” said Neubauer. “... It was the first time where Kelsey’s been in foul trouble. She had a couple, and we had to keep her in there. Then we had to make an adjustment, ... (Hannah) Neeman and (Paige) Anderson are good basketball players [for Denison-Schleswig].”
The Monarchs took advantage without Fields on the floor, double-teaming the ball carrier at half court and taking advantage of mismatches on offense. Anderson led Denison in points with 20 while Neeman closed with 19.
Post play was one of the biggest factors to Creston’s success Friday night, using its size and length to its advantage as it has all season.
“Biggest thing I was happy about (Friday) was the stuff we worked on in practice, we applied (Friday),” said Neubauer. “We worked a ton of stuff on post, getting sealed faster, and Sam made coach (Bryant) McCabe and I look like a genius with that. She played sensational down there. That made a big difference.”
Dunphy’s ability to get through Denison-Schleswig defenders made her a problem for the Monarchs all night, getting feeds on cuts to the basket for layup scores. She finished with 25 points on 9 of 13 shooting with six rebounds and four steals. The next highest scorer was Driskell, who scored 19 with a team-high five assists.
Neubauer mentioned the return of Braelyn Baker, whose future this season was in peril due to a meniscus injury, helped keep the rotation of seven players fresh in games like Friday. Baker finished with four assists and no points.
“It was a total team win. ... A lot [of girls] stepped up. A lot of good play. It was a total team win, and that’s how we need to play. ... Our kids stayed composed and it was just a good, gritty win,” said Neubauer.
Neubauer went on to mention the game had a tournament atmosphere, with fans returning to the stands without an attendance cap as a nice thing to see in a big game.
UP NEXT — Creston will take on Red Oak tonight (Monday) in Red Oak at 6 p.m.
Red Oak handed Creston three losses last season, including a postseason loss that sent the Tigers to the state tournament. The Tigers have fallen victim to a “down” season and are losers of their last five, playing only three games before the winter break.
The last win for Creston over Red Oak came Jan. 5, 2019 in a 56-54 final. Kelsey Fields, then a sophomore, had a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Sam Dunphy, also a sophomore, scored 15 points.
Creston 63, Denison-Schleswig 58
DENISON-SCHLESWIG (58) — (FG FT PTS) Totals — 21 12-15 58. Paige Anderson 8 3-4 20, Hannah Neemann 7 5-6 19, Ellie Magnuson 3 2-2 10. 3-point goals — 4 (Magnuson 2). Rebounds – 27. Assists – 11. Steals – 11. Blocks 1. Team fouls — 23. Fouled out — Magnuson.
CRESTON (63) — (FG FT PTS) Totals — 21 16-27 63. Sam Dunphy 9 6-10 25, Rylie Driskell 4 7-9 19, Kelsey Fields 5 0-1 10, Doryn Paup 3 1-3 7, Bri Fields 0 2-4 2, Morgan Driskell 0 0-0 0. 3-point goals — 5 (Rylie Driskell 4). Rebounds – 26 (Kelsey Fields 7, Dunphy 6, Rylie Driskell 6). Assists – 19 (Rylie Driskell 5). Steals – 13 (Dunphy 4). Blocks – 3 (Kelsey Fields 2). Team fouls — 18. Fouled out – Kelsey Fields.