DES MOINES — What nerves?
Though North Scott boasts three returning starters from its 2017 state title-winning team, it was two Wells Fargo Arena newcomers who sparked the Class 4A No. 2 Lancers to a 56-37 quarterfinal win over No. 8 Denison-Schleswig on Tuesday.
Senior Chloe Engelkes finished with a team-high 13 points and sophomore Sam Scott added 11 points as the Lancers never trailed in their state tournament opener.
North Scott plays No. 6 Sioux City Heelan, 55-46 winners over Grinnell, in a semifinal at 6:45 p.m. Thursday.
"It helps when you have everyone making shots so it's like, 'Hey, I'll chip in,'" said Engelkes, who was a scout team player during the Lancers' state-title run. "When you're moving the ball that well, you don't really think about it when you're shooting."
Entering the state tournament, the Lancers (20-3) had been led by the strong post play of 6-foot-2 junior Grace Boffeli, averaging 17.6 points and 11.1 rebounds on the season. The Monarchs presented one of the biggest challenges of the season for Boffeli, with three starters at 5-10 or taller.
Boffeli was held to just five points in the first half but it wasn't an issue as North Scott shot 8-of-17 from the 3-point line in the game.
"It was going to take two or three girls to stop her and we knew we were going to get some kickouts," North Scott head coach TJ Case said. "These girls have been playing a lot of ball, they've been playing a lot of AAU ball. We've been at Ambrose leading up to this, we've been at Augie leading up to this, we were at the Knapp Center (Monday). We're putting them in situations to see that background and I think it paid off."
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That shooting opened up the inside in the second half for Boffeli, who finished with 13 points and 14 rebounds. Rylie Rucker added nine points and Presley Case had eight points and seven assists.
"It was a big relief at the beginning of the game," Boffeli said. "It's crucial that our team passes the ball and I feel like the more we pass, the more open shots we get. When our team is very balanced and we all score a big number, it's hard for teams to guard us and it's hard for teams to scout us."
Engelkes hit her first two shots in the first quarter, helping the Lancer open up a quick 13-0 lead. The Lancers led 15-4 after one quarter and 28-16 at halftime.
"We knew they had the ability to knock down outside shots," Denison-Schleswig head coach Adam Mich said. "We had some miscues defensively and that gave them wide open looks on the outside and they took advantage ... that was tough to see and I thought we could never overcome that first quarter."
After the Monarchs (20-3) cut the lead to 28-19 to open the third quarter, North Scott went on a 12-0 run to open up a 21-point lead. Scott was key in the run, scoring eight of her points in the frame.
"I think we all were really hyped up so we had to settle in and make sure we moved the ball really well to get big shots," Scott said. "It was a good little boost and helped us know we could do that, gained confidence in each other."
Defensively, the Lancers' 1-3-1 zone gave the Monarchs problems as Denison shot 36.4 percent from the field. Alex Mohr led the team with nine points and Sarah Heilesen and Paige Andersen each added eight points in the Monarchs' first trip to state since 2005.
"They did a nice job with their zone, taking away our inside presence," Mich said. "We have three post players that average double figures that they did a nice job of taking away from us."